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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Deserted Station
Deserted Station
First Run Features // Unrated // December 13, 2005
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted January 8, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Director Alireza Raisian started with a story by famed Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami (A Taste of Cherry) for his 2002 film Deserted Station.  From this story Raisian was able to craft a beautiful and haunting film that has many interesting elements, but has a hard time connecting with western audiences.

Mahmood is a photographer from Tehran who is going on a pilgrimage with his wife to be blessed by an Imam.  On the way they get lost in the desert, and their car breaks down when Mahmood swerves to avoid hitting a deer.  Looking for help, they discover a small village where the local school teacher also serves as the barber and mechanic.  Feziollah is the only man in the town, the others have left to seek work in other parts of the country, but he agrees to take Mahmood to town for a replacement part for his vehicle.  The only condition is that his wife needs to teach his students for the day.  Agreeing to these simple terms, the men set off leaving the young lady with the rural children, an event that will touch her deeply.

This was a slow and deliberately paced movie, and one that has a lot going for it.  The scenery is lovely, and the camera work creates an environment that fits the tone of the action very well.  The acting is very subdued yet the emotions and feelings of the characters is easy to discern.  All of this adds a lot to the film.

The problem with the movie is that much of the symbolism and meaning of the film will be lost on western audiences.   When the film was over, I had more questions about the film than answers.  There were many events that were obviously meaningful that were hard to decipher.  What was the significance of the deer that the couple nearly hit?  A couple of times it was mentioned that there were no deer in that part of the desert, but the significance of the event is unclear.

The argument could be made that the film examines the role of women in modern Iranian society. Women are all but invisible while men are around, even disappearing when a traveling salesman stops to hawk his wares.  Though this is a compelling interpretation, it isn't totally satisfactory.  After all Mahmood's wife still is able to exercise considerable power over her husband.  She's the reason for the trip in the first place, and at the end she is able to make him do her bidding even though he doesn't really want to.

The DVD:


Audio:

This film comes with a stereo soundtrack in the original Farsi with burned in subtitles.  I was fairly astounded that they didn't offer optional subtitles on this disc, and it's too bad really.  The white subtitles were often put over light colored images making it very hard to read.  There are also a few misspellings, but they aren't prevalent.  Aside from that, the audio was about average.   The background music was haunting and really fit the movie well, but there wasn't a huge amount of range and the sound wasn't as tight as it could have been.  Distortion and dropouts were absent.

Video:

I was disappointed to discover that this film's widescreen presentation (1.66:1) isn't anamorphically enhanced.  This is too bad because there is some nice scenery that would have looked even better in true widescreen.  The video quality was also not very good.  This movie was mastered from videotape and not as crisp as film would have been.  The colors are muted and the image is rather soft.  In addition to that, there are many defects in the print too.  Spots and dirt are present, and there are more than a few video dropouts and tape errors.  This looks more like an unrestored film form the 70's than a three year old film.

Extras:

The extras on this disc are a series of text biographies, a photo gallery, and a statement from the director.

Final Thoughts:

The gap in cultures was just a bit too wide for me to fully appreciate this film.  Though the cinematography was very beautiful and the acting nicely restrained, much of the symbolism and meaning of the film was hard to decipher to these Western eyes.  Added to that is the sub-par presentation.  The burned in subtitles are hard to read at times, and the image is definitely below average, making this a good film to rent.
 

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