Nimeh-ye penhan (Hidden Half) (2001)
Director: Tahmineh Milani.
Starring: Niki Karimi (Fereshteh), Mohammad Nikbin (Khosro), Atila Pesiani (Husband), Soghra Abissi, Akbar Moazezi, Afarin Obeisi.
experiences of a female philosophy student (1979 to 1980 academic year) in the Islamic Revolution in Iran
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
40 year old Fereshteh Missamimi married her husband Khosro Mohtasham 17 years ago. She has two children, a boy and a girl. Her husband tells her that he has to travel to Shiraz to interview a woman who has been condemned to death, but claims that she is innocent and that no one will listen to her case. She is has been a political prisoner for ten years. For reasons unknown to the viewer, Fereshteh is very upset over the case. Her husband is being accompanied by his colleague Rastegar. When Fereshteh answers the door on the morning of her husband's travel day, she is taken aback to see Rastegar, who tells her that 20 years have passed and she need not worry about him. But Fereshteh still is not comfortable in the man's presence.
In Shiraz Khosro and Rastegar rent two rooms. While Rastegar waits for Khosro to come down to dinner, Khosro reads his wife's autobiography that she had surreptitiously placed in his luggage. He reads that her childhood was a difficult one, a childhood of sorrow. She writes that her live really started in 1978 after the Islamic Revolution. She entered the university in Tehran where, because of her social class, she was attracted to the communist group. She would attend meetings with a small group of women students in the late afternoon and discuss political ideas and actions. At the meetings she takes notice of a very handsome older man who participates in a discussion group of intellectuals. She is so taken with him that she becomes flustered when she sees him.
Fereshteh and her colleagues paste political posters on the walls of buildings. Their greatest fear is not of the police necessarily, but of the female gang leader Zahra Khanoom. She and her group of male thugs tear down their posters and then try to catch the female communists, who run in fear away from them at first site. Nasrin is the leader of the communist group. She spent five years in prison. Other members of the group are her friend Zohreh along with Maryam and Farkhondeh. Behind the back of Nasrin, the women attend a reception in honor of an author who died young. The speaker introduces Rozbeh Javid, the older man Fereshteh likes. He is a popular critic and writer and also the editor of Art and Society. She is a little flushed from his talk and starts to leave the reception after his speech. But Javid stops her and speaks with her. He is obviously interested in her.
It is a time of political troubles. There is a rebellion in Kurdistan and four of her leaders of the Councils of Turkmen Sahra have been killed. The universities are in disarray. And Fereshteh gets chased again by the Zahra Khanoom gang. They catch her and start to rough her up but she escapes when others intervene. The gang resumes its chase and Fereshteh winds up hiding near the offices of Javid and his colleagues. She escapes the gang by taking refuge in their building. There she meets Javid again and a Ms. Pahlevan who is a known author and who was in prison for five years. She speaks with the young woman and starts to open her up to another world. When Fereshteh leaves the building, there is a man with a camera secretly taking her picture.
Fereshteh visits Javid again. He says he is single. She goes to a party with him, but she feels very out-of-place. When Javid drives her home, they notice men with rifles near by the place where she lives and so they drive away. The authorities caught her friend Zohreh and they took Maryam. Javid tells her that he is going to send her to England until things calm down. She makes arrangement with Javid to pick her up, but because his colleague Masoodi did not give her message to Javid, no one shows up to give her a ride to the airport. She then takes a taxi to Javid's building. Masoodi is there and he says he wants to talk with her. In the editorial office area he tells her that Javid is a married man with a wife and son -- a son who is older than Fereshteh. Fereshteh is very angry. Masoodi says he will introduce her to his wife Ms. Shafiee.
She does meet Shafiee, who gives her an extremely warm welcome. They make an appointment to talk the following day. At the meeting, Shafiee refers to Fereshteh as her competitor. This shocks Fereshteh because she has already made it clear that she will not see Javid again. But Shafiee wants her to swear that she will never see husband again. Shafiee then tells her that Masoodi earns extra money from her by keeping a watch on her husband who has had lots of affairs. She starts to tell Fereshteh the story of her beautiful and intelligent cousin Mahmonir. Mahmonir was in love with the then single Javid. On August 19, 1953, the day of the Shah's coup d'etat, at a political rally Mahmonir introduced Javid to Shafiee. At the time Javid was involved in a communist group. Shafiee was very taken with Javid. The rally soon got out of control with people shouting "Down with the Communists." In the fracas Mahmonir just disappeared, never to be heard of again. Later Shafiee's father asked Javid to marry his daughter and he did. Her father helped him with his financial activities. She ends the story by saying that in the entire 25 years with Javid she has never believed that he ever loved her. She then shows Fereshteh a photo album containing pictures of Mahmonir. Fereshteh is shocked when she sees the resemblance between Mahmonir and herself. Apparently, Javid is so taken with Fereshteh because she looks and acts like the lost Mahmonir. Shafiee also tells her that Javid wanted to live in England with her (Fereshteh).
In order to escape both the police and Javid, Fereshteh takes a 24-hour job nursing an older woman. Fereshteh gets very scared when she hears that Nasrin has been arrested at her house. She tells her friend Zohreh that she wants to go home to her parents. Her father is very sick.
One day Javid finds Fereshteh. He tells here he wants to marry her and go to England. She tells him that she does not love him anymore, but he doesn't believe it. She gets out of the car and leaves. He does not chase after her.
The universities close and the students are beaten and killed. Nasrin has been executed. Maryam repented in prison. Farkhondeh got 10 years in prison and Zohreh became a political refugee in Germany. Fereshteh meets her employer's son, who turns out to be her future husband. The universities open and she goes to register. While there she is confronted by Rastegar, who knows of her past, and tells her not to register because he will not let the university accept her. She tells him she'll take her chances. The register form has very possibly incriminating questions, such as "which organizations did you collaborate with" and "do you know any organizations that are anti-Islamic." Later Rastegar tells her of her permanent expulsion from the university. So Fereshteh turns to Khosro to help her to register.
Many years later Fereshteh sees her once colleague Farkhondeh at a funeral for her father. There she also sees Javid again. She leaves but he comes after her. He tells her that she listened to his wife but she judged him without giving him a chance to tell his side of the story. But now it's too late.
Khosro finishes the autobiography by telling her husband to please listen carefully and without bias to the political prisoner he is going to interview. For after all, "the woman could have been me, or Farkhondeh or Zohreh". At the interview, Khosro tells Rastegar to leave the room. He will interview the woman alone. Rastegar leaves. The interview begins.
Very good movie. It reveals the terror of the Islamic Revolution in Iran where thugs beat up people of differing or unorthodox beliefs and where the government can arrest people for the same offenses and either send them to prison or execute them. Iran became a theocratic police state. We get an insight into the horror that is Iran through the eyes of the fearful Fereshteh. And she had plenty about which to be scared. I wouldn't want to be a female in any of these Islamic Revolutionary theocratic governments. Women may not be slaves but they certainly have no way near the rights of men. Niki Karimi was very good as Fereshteh. The other actors were also good.
To illustrate the injustices in Iran, the director of the movie was imprisoned for the offense. I thought the review on www.amazon.com was terrible. At no time did I think the movie was anti-male and all the female characters were good and noble. And the story is certainly not a soap opera. Soap operas are not political and this movie is very political. (My wife also liked the movie.)
The director also did Two Women (1999).
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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