One of the golden rules I go by when watching a DVD is this: I eventually look aside at the DVD player's timer. I do this because the movie has disconnected with my brain; it's more of a visceral reaction, not something I do consciously.
So, I make a note of the time on the timer. If the number is low, say a 7 or an 8 minutes, then the movie usually gets kicked out - it won't hold my attention and I have better things to do with my time than watch a bad movie. If it's high, 25 or 30 minutes, then the movie has surpassed my expectations.
This movie rated a 16 minute-glance. Not great, really. Not "terrible", either.
The things I enjoyed here are the glimpses of rural Iranian life. A couple things struck me: 1. the old lady knew what telecommunications was. Maybe the average rural arab is not the middle-ages barbarian most westerners think he is.
2. We in the west have this image of the typical Arab as a wholy devout Muslim, spending all their time talking about God and praying, and telling the world how much they hate Americans. God was only mentioned a couple times in this film, and the people wpent most of their day eeking out a life from the soil.
This made me think that maybe these people really aren't very different than us in the west: America calls itself a christian nation, but the majority of American's don't believe in Christianity or don't exercise their faith. Maybe the same is true of Arabs.
3. What a rich yet simple life they lead. The small village was beautiful - it wasn't filmed as well as it could have been, but still the atmosphere came through. I wanted to move there.
And what gorgeous land they lived in! Absolutely breathtaking!
The story was simple enough - I think the crew (whom we hear but never see) is a TV crew, not a film crew (some people use the word "film" interchangeably for both video and film). Since the event they have arrived to document never happens (we never see the old lady), the "engineer" spend weeks in this village killing time (since the entire movie plodded along, we never really got the sense that he was there for weeks rather than days).
There were many interesting "polt" points. I particularly liked the engineer's interaction with the man digging the hole. And the woman milking the cow.
But, I have to say, the phone gimmick really got to me after a while. I'd hear the thing go off, see him pick it up and say, "Allo? Allo?" And I'd say to myself, "Not again!"
About 1/6 of this film is footage of the guy driving his car.
Foreign films are great when they give you glimpses of cultures quite alien to our western culture. It's usually for this reason that I watch them. Being a great film is icing on the cake.
The film succeeded as a glimpse of Iran, but failed as a story. So I got the cake without the icing.
I should say here that the movie would have rated 3 stars were it not for the absolutely horrible DVD pressing. All images that moved quickly past the frame tore along their edges. This is not a high-quality print, so buy with caution.