Student Critics' Reviews: The Brick and the Mirror

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This year, the Student Critics Jury at Edinburgh International Film Festival made their picks of the Fest. Today our coverage continues with Harrison Kelly's review of The Brick and the Mirror.

Ebrahim Golestan’s 1964 masterwork, The Brick and the Mirror, predates the Iranian revolution, but it remains relevant inside and outside Iran. Golestan produced, wrote, directed, and edited the film, employing a crew of four non-filmmakers – and several non-actors – to assist. The end result is a timeless attack on injustice, which outlives Iranian political struggles, and should resonate with all viewers.

The plot follows Hashem, a taxi driver, who struggles to deal with a baby girl, left in his cab by a mysterious woman. Despite Hashem seeking advice from male friends, it is his girlfriend, Taji, who offers genuine help, hoping that the child will fill some kind of void – perhaps even becoming a kind of saviour for the relationship.

And yet the baby is just one of many abandoned in Tehran. The film skewers red tape and institutions, including the police, hospital, and the heaving courts. It all culminates in a moment where, after Hashem has taken the baby to an orphanage, Taji attempts to retrieve her. Suddenly we see the environment in an unforgettable way; unfalsified shots of orphans are edited together in a protracted sequence which appeals to the audience directly.

Stylistically, the film is remarkable. Golestan’s poetic long takes and slow style seem to channel Antonioni, and the long, slow tracking shot as Taji collapses against a wall in the orphanage corridor, surely echoes Resnais. Even though, at the same time, various revolutions and New Waves were emerging in European cinema, it quickly becomes clear watching The Brick and the Mirror that Golestan was spearheading something similar in Iran.

– Harrison Kelly

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The Student Critics Jury is a group of bright young student film critics mentored at Edinburgh International Film Festival.

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