Arousi-ye Khouban (Marriage of the Blessed) (1989)
Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf.
Starring: Ebrahim Abadi, Mahmud Bigham (Haji), Roya Nonahali, Mohsen Zaehtab.
young Iranian photographer of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) has troubles adjusting to civilian life
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Haji Padel, a photographer that took pictures during the Iran-Iraq War, is in the hospital. His fiancÚ Mehri with her father and mother come to visit him. His visitors feel that he cannot go to his mother's home because she cannot take care of him. So they take Haji to their home. The patients starts screaming about his various hallucinations and flashbacks.
Mehri's father thinks that Haji is so unable to handle the real world that he suggests that the wedding should be canceled. He wants to tell Haji's mother. Mehri's mother tells her husband not to worry because Mehri will get tired of Haji all by herself. Mehri tries to show Haji pictures from their past to help him remember the good times. Then a film is shown that has very disturbing images of starvation in Africa and rioting and other troubles in Lebanon. Haji starts screaming that "The oppressors (the rich) are coming back." He cries over the images of starving children. Mehri tells him that he should not watch films like this. They are just too disturbing.
Haji and Mehri take photos. She is scheduled for a photo exhibition. Later they go to register their marriage. But the father's consent is necessary. In the office, Haji starts having flashbacks. The noise of the typewriter causes him to think of firing weapons. He gets up shouting "The Iraqis are coming!" He grabs a crutch and starts breaking out the windows. Mehri visits him at the hospital. He tells her that he feels depressed. He adds that "I will never recover" and that he will ruin her life. Mehri's father still wants to cancel the wedding contract.
Haji goes back to work at the newspaper. The editor there says that Haji has provided good pictures from the front. He is given an assignment to take pictures around the the city. On a motorcycle and with his fiancÚ in a sidecar, Haji takes pictures of the homeless, criminals and other street life people. But then he starts taking pictures of images that are not even there.
There is a demonstration where the participants shout "Down with the USA." He upsets some criminals when he takes their picture. But Haji is simply fearless in his pursuit of great pictures. The police are called to check him out. Apparently, someone is making a film in the area and Haji is messing up their filming. The police have Haji and Mehri follow them to the police station. They call Mehri's father and mother. Her father says that the couple are married, but not registered. The police let Haji and Mehri go free.
Haji takes fellow photographer Mehrdad along with him for a motorcycle ride. Mehrdad tells Haji that the editor only published a couple of the few shots he took of a flower. This makes Haji mad. Haji starts having flashbacks again and nearly has an accident. Mehrdad tells him that he will drive, but Haji won't let him. His friend Mehrdad even tries to gain control of the motorcycle.
Mehri has her photo exhibition. A reporter asks her a lot of questions, but he doesn't get good answers from Mehri.
The wedding day arrives. Mehrdad brings Haji to the ceremony and starts taking pictures. But soon Haji starts taking over the photographing of the wedding. He has flashbacks of old images while taking new pictures. They ask Haji to say something to the assembled guests. He starts out well, but soon is constantly repeating "Robbed food is delicious." He gets so carried away that they try to silence him. They have to grab him and take him away.
Haji is back in the hospital again. Mehri visits him while he is there. He tells her "I won't be seeing you again." He adds "I'm a goner." Haji asks Mehri if her father is mad at him. She says that he is choking with rage.
Haji seems to get out of the hospital by killing one of the hospital employees, but we don't really know if this is true or his imagination. Sleeping outside he tells a photographer not to take pictures of him, just like the street people had told him not to take pictures of them. Haji calls Mehri and tells her that he has left the hospital. He says that he just wanted to say good-bye and ask for her forgiveness. Mehri tries to find out where is is, but he lets the receive dangle and then leaves. Mehri runs out to catch a taxi to see if she can find him.
Haji has still more war flashbacks. The last scene is of Haji looking out on what appears to be a parking lot with a lot of parked cars.
An o.k. movie. It's shot in a surrealistic fashion to reflect Haji's own mental illness (post-traumatic stress disorder). I never much cared for the style and this was no different. The men with PTSD were certainly not getting proper care at the Iranian hospital where Haji stayed several times. Haji is released from the hospital a couple of times completely unable to cope with normal life. And he doesn't cope with it. He keeps having to go back into the hospital after they keep releasing him. No one seems to understand that Haji is suffering from PTSD and so has little chance of being able to handle life. He himself says that he's a goner. And poor Mehri simply has no clue just how sick her fiancÚ/husband is and just how much she is out of touch with reality. It's a rather tragic love story.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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