Dan­ger­ous truths

MANUSCRIPTS DON’T BURN ★★★★ Di­rected by Mo­ham­mad Ra­soulof Star­ring N/A Club, IFI, Dublin, 125 min

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

You will get some grasp of the brav­ery in­volved in bring­ing this Ira­nian film to cin­e­mas when you hear that, ac­com­mo­dat­ing those at dan­ger from the state, the film-mak­ers have left much of the end cred­its blank (hence the gaps at the top of this re­view). There are ironies within ironies there. The be­nign redac­tion comes at the end of a film that has ter­ri­ble things to say about cen­sor­ship in Iran. It con­cerns in­tel­lec­tu­als who look and talk very much like their coun­ter­parts else­where in the world. They dis­cuss their work in shady rooms. They (dan­ger­ously in that coun­try) swill back the odd glass of vodka. But death and tor­ture are al­ways at their el­bows.

Toy­ing with our emo­tions in tricky fash­ion, Mo­ham­mad Ra­soulof, a fre­quent, un­will­ing guest of his na­tion, fo­cuses much of his at­ten­tion on a pair of gov­ern­ment hoods sent to deal with an er­rant writer. Morteza is an ef­fi­cient killer who has squared away his conscience. Khos­row is an al­to­gether more in­ter­est­ing fig­ure: a di­vided man work­ing to pay for his sick child’s med­i­cal bills. Dos­to­evsky would have savoured the tor­ments that Khos­row en­dures as he com­mits him­self to his grubby task.

As­ton­ish­ingly for a film made in Iran, the pic­ture al­lows no such am­bi­gu­ity about the state’s at­ti­tude to cul­ture and free­dom. This is an in­her­ently evil sys­tem run by petty men of ruth­less am­bi­tion. Of course, such monsters are a gift to the po­lit­i­cal thriller.

Ra­soulof con­structs a vivid por­trait of a para­noid state, but he also man­ages to in­cor­po­rate some fin­ger­nail-en­dan­ger­ing ten­sion into the piece. A sin­gu­lar film that de­mands fur­ther ex­po­sure.

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