Cast: Niki Karimi, Sahar Amadpour
Iranian cinema has had a renaissance lately, with many of the movies that follow down to earth everyday people facing common, but tough struggles which lends itself to amazing drama that audiences can easily follow. Wednesday, May 9 is another example, and exemplar of this Iranian New Wave.
The story follows a philanthropist deciding to give away a very large portion of his money to Tehran’s most neediest people, but will only give it away to the one that needs its most. The film follows two of these hopefuls, Leila (Karimi), a dutiful, stoic mother whose husband is suffering from an extreme disability, Setareh (Amadpour), a young girl hopelessly in love with a ruffian, both women, and their motives that lead them to seeking the help of this philanthropist, as well as that of the philanthropist himself. It is a film about a study in character, and the film does it in a way where we are drawn to sympathise with all their plights.
Like its film characters, much of the film’s palette and colours are quite down to earth, reflecting the daily realities of the society in which they inhabit. We are treated to opening shots of a very large crowd gathering at the street, and close up shots of their faces, each of them telling a life of hardship, reminiscent of Mohsen Makmambalf’s 1994 film Salaam Cinema, which was about, a landmark film of Iranian cinema which established the country’s film industry to much applause. The Iranian New Wave is often marked out for its preference for telling stories of its people and their everyday lives, in a form of social realist art, or much closer to the British kitchen sink cinema of the 1950s (think the early movies of Ken Loach).
With this in mind, the construction of the film is rather chaotic from sound design to organizing principle. Lots of noise drowns out many of the scenes, like traffic and general urban bustle, or the sounds of food cooking, that of heavy clattering and banging in workshops and factories and the occasional violent outburst. Having stayed in a country that was on its way to being part of the developed world, some of the scenes reminded of streets of my country of birth. The film loves its close ups of the human face to enunciate the emotional anguish of each character.
Wednesday, May 9 is one of those movies that demands a lot of your emotional attention and (temporary) attachment to some of the stories. Certainly one for drama afficionados, but maybe not for our fast-paced ritalin-popping generation.