3 Faces: The BRWC Review

3 Faces

Jafar Panahi’s 3 Faces is a thoughtful portrayal of gender roles in contemporary Iran.

Accompanied by well-known actress Behnaz Jafari, Panahi travels from Tehran to a rural village to investigate the fate of a young actress who has appealed for Jafari’s help. Jafari and Panahi play fictionalised versions of themselves – a method Panahi has previously used to comic effect in his 2015 feature Taxi.

A video of the girl, Marziyeh Rezaei, apparently committing suicide has been sent to Jafari, leaving the actress distraught. There is doubt on the veracity of the video from the outset, with Behnaz Jafari stewing in her own impatience and uncertainty. This impatience is at odds with the unhurried nature of the villagers they encounter. They are eager to share their stories with her, but she is too distracted to listen.

Rezaei and Jafari are two of the titular three faces, and the third is Madam Shahrzad, an actress from pre-revolution Iran, who is an outcast in the village. She lives a solitary life, rising at dawn to paint the landscape. She is only ever glimpsed from a distance, and the audience is unable to reach or understand her.

Despite being set out in the countryside, cinematographer Amin Jafari creates a claustrophobic atmosphere. Often with a narrow field of vision, small houses, skinny paths, and the single track road are filmed within the frame of Panahi’s car. Behnaz Jafari is eager to escape the confines of the vehicle wherever possible.

3 Faces explores the attitude that the villagers have about women and education. Seeking an education is referred to as ‘empty headed’, and actors are described as ‘entertainers’ – a pejorative term. Although the villagers are somewhat star-struck when Jafari and Panahi arrive. The people in the village believe in the status quo – a system that will protect them. In this system, the men play the leading roles, while the women support them, happily or not. As one villager states “Everything falls apart without rules”.

3 Faces is a story about dichotomy. A series of disputes where each side believes things to be rigid and binary. Panahi is skilled in showing the audience not only this tension, but the grey areas that the protagonists cannot see.

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Esme Betamax is a writer and illustrator. Often found in the Cube Microplex. Favourites include: I ♡ Huckabees, Where the Buffalo Roam, Harold & Maude, Being John Malkovich and In the Shadow of the Moon.


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