Two Women (1999)
Director: Tahmineh Milani.
Starring: Mohammad Reza Forutan (Hassan), Niki Karimi (Fereshteh), Reza Khandan (Fereshteh's father), Atila Pesiani (Ahmad), Marila Zare'i (Roya).
two architecture students in the first turbulent years of the Islamic Revolution in Iran showing obstacles they face as women
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Fereshteh telephones her friend Roya at her work as an architect to tell her she needs her to come to the hospital where her husband is in the intensive care unit.
Flashback to the early days of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Fereshteh and Roya are in the same math class. Roya is weak in math and she employs Fereshteh to tutor her in mathematics. They start to become very close friends and as friends Fereshteh confides in Roya her worry that the universities might close because of the troubles surrounding the Islamic Revolution. On campus there is a near riot as a group turns over the literature tables of another student group.
But Fereshteh has another problem. She is being harassed by a stalker who follows her everywhere. They have him thrown off the bus because of his harassment, but from the sidewalk he flashes a knife to Fereshteh. In another incident, he threatens Roya that he will hurt her if she does not stop seeing Fereshteh. Roya is very frightened by the incident, but Fereshteh does not appear afraid, but rather committed to doing something about the stalker. She will not, however, go to the police.
Fereshteh visits her cousin and afterwards he walks her to the station. The stalker rides up on his motorcycle and throws acid on the cousin. At the hospital, her father is furious with her. He says that she has disgraced him and adds: "I wish she were dead." Fereshteh is going to go to her uncle's house because the university has closed and she needs to get away from the stalker. In the process of packing, the stalker shows up and demands to know where she is going. She learns that his name is Hassan. The crazed man tells her that he loves her and wants to marry her. Foolishly, she tells him she is going to her uncle's house to get away from him.
Back to the present. Roya and Fereshteh meet at the hospital. Fereshteh has her two young boys with her. Fereshteh asks Roya to use her contacts to find a good doctor for her husband. The doctors confer and they agree they need a miracle. One of the doctor asks Roya to prepare her friend for the bad news. They talk about old times. Fereshteh tells Roya that she never got any of the letters she sent her. Roya tells her that she married the boss at the architectural firm where she works.
Flashback. Hassan finds Fereshteh, who hops in her car and drives away. He follows her on his motorcycle. In the chase Fereshteh runs into a young boy breaking his leg, while Hassan runs into another young boy killing him. Again her father shouts that she has disgraced him. In his anger he threatens to kill his two daughters. Fereshteh talks back to her father asking him: "What disgrace?" In the verbal fight Fereshteh hides under the steps and her father locks her in.
At court Hassan tries to put all the blame on Fereshteh for rejecting his love. Fereshteh has to pay for breaking the boy's leg and damages, but Hassan is sent to prison for 13 years for throwing acid, harassment and manslaughter. Hassan shouts to Fereshteh: "I'll kill you."
Fereshteh's father promises her to a friend to whom he owes money. Fereshteh says she does not want to marry the man and that she will pay back the money for her father. Her mother says that Ahmad is doing her father a favor by marrying her. At a meeting with all the parties involved, Ahmad promises Fereshteh that he will give her written permission for school. Everyone puts so much pressure on Fereshteh that she finally agrees to think about it. And the next thing we see is that she is marrying the guy.
Her husband turns out to be controlling and very jealous and suspicious. He says that he must take control. He takes the phone from her and locks it up in a cabinet. He constantly asks her the name of the man with whom she is having an affair and says that he'll kill this man. Fereshteh begs her husband to work with her to make the marriage a good one, but it appears hopeless. Ahmad assaults a guy for just looking at Fereshteh and gets himself beat up enough to land him in the hospital.
In the hospital, her father tells Ahmad: "I gave you a wife, not a slave" and "I made a mistake." But Ahmad becomes angry and threatens his father-in-law and her father backs down. Fereshteh is pregnant, but she still asks her father to help her get a divorce. But the government official tells her that her reasons are not enough for a divorce. Mere verbal abuse is not enough. If he hit her, it would be a different story. Fereshteh protests but it doesn't do any good. She goes to her uncle's house. There her husband comes to pick her up.
Fereshteh is very sick during the entire pregnancy and does not want her husband anywhere around her. She gives birth to a boy. She wants something different, but finds herself pregnant again. The universities have re-opened. She wants to study again, but her husband is opposed. Driving in the car with her husband, she tells him that he cannot stop her and that she will get a divorce. In anger he drives so fast that he crashes into a tree.
Fereshteh tells her father: "I can't take it anymore." She moves out with the two boys. But while the children are with a babysitter, Ahmad takes the youngsters. Fereshteh does not go back for a few years, but eventually she becomes so worried about her children that she returns to her husband.
Time passes and Hassan is back and begins to stalk her even though he can't do that much stalking because Fereshteh is a virtual prisoner in her home. She has a big fight with her husband who is upset that she has some education books for the children. He demands to know where she got the books. She tells her husband that she has lost her sense of self and that she hates both him and their miserable house. She runs away and her husband chases after her. She runs into Hassan who tells her that he is going to kill her. She tells him to do it because she has had enough of a lifetime of threats, insults and humiliation. Her husband, spotting Hassan, gets a long stick, sneaks up on the stalker and hits him from behind. Hassan is knocked back, but quickly recovers and stabs Ahmad several times.
Back to the present. Ahmad dies in the hospital. Fereshteh tells Roya that she did not want her husband to be killed. (But she never told her husband that Hassan was back.) She talks out loud saying Roya's name repeatedly. Roya cries to see her friend so confused and overwhelmed. Fereshteh says: "Roya, I have so many thing to do."
Good movie. Like the movie the Nimeh-ye penhan (Hidden Half) (2001), the movie shows the terrible oppression of women in Iran. I have heard quite a few Iranian women on television say that the situation in Iran is not that bad for women for after all their husbands do not beat them. This, however, ignores and belittles the terrible experiences of Iranian women who do not have better behaved husbands. One's well-being should not depend on another person's moral goodness or badness. Most of the men in Fereshteh's life were morally lacking. Hassan stalked and threatened her, her father blamed her instead of the stalker and forced her to marry a man she did not love and her husband constantly verbally abused her making her a prisoner in her own home. This behavior would not be tolerated in advanced industrial societies, but many of the Islamic nations are caught in the 14th century and have unjust and unfair laws governing women. (This makes for a real challenge for the theory of multiculturalism in the advanced industrial societies as the mores and norms of Islamic life often violate basic human rights.)
Two female friends, Roya and Fereshteh, who met at the university, took two different paths. The one who was more intelligent and more accomplished, Fereshteh, because of her familial background, was trapped and oppressed by her father and husband. Roya, on the other hand, was permitted to choose her husband who was much more accepting of the equality of women with men. Roya was able to live free and work at a high-level job, while her dear friend was being slowly tortured. Life should not be allowed to be so unfair.
As in the Hidden Half, Niki Karimi as Fereshteh was great.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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