Bereits am 8.April startete der Film ‘Zeit des Zorns’ (Originaltitel: ‘Shekarchi’) in den deutschen Kinos. In dem Film geht es um Ali, der mit seiner Frau und Tochter in der iranischen Metropole Teheran lebt. Wegen seiner Arbeit in einer Fabrik kann er kaum noch Zeit mit seiner Familie verbringen. Er versucht dennoch ein möglichst normales Leben zu führen. Dann wird seine Frau bei einer Demonstration erschossen, seine Tochter verschwindet spurlos. Die Polizei verdächtigt sogar Ali mit den Demonstranten zu sympathisieren. Als dann auch noch seine Tochter tot aufgefunden wird, lässt Ali seinem Zorn freien lauf. Er nimmt sich sein Gewehr und nimmt auf dem Highway einen Polizeiwagen ins Visier.
Der Film, der im Wettbewerb der 2010er Berlinale zu sehen war, wurde von dem iranischen Regisseur Rafi Pitts (‘It’s Winter’) inszeniert. Ich hatte die Gelegenheit mich mit ihm zu treffen und über den Film und seine Leidenschaft, dem Film, zu unterhalten.
filmtogo: You’re telling kind of a cold story. The images we see, we see empty roads, then the search of Ali. Where is his wife? Where is his daugther? There is no empathy for him. Not at the police station, nor at the hospital. Isn’t that a little bit too frustrating for the audience? Or does it matter to tell the story in this way?
Pitts: When you tell a story, this is how I make films, the perception, wheter it be with image or with sound, is from the central characters point of view. The central character is someone who is released from prison. The central character is someone who is not allowed to live his day to day life. The central character is somebody who is repressed. The central character is someone who loses his wife and child. So if I shoot it very colourful, I would be disrespecting the central character. And the tone of the film is given by the main character, always, in all of my films. If he was having a happy life, it would probably be very colourful. However, if you look at the film carefully, the scenes where he is happy are very colourful and very bright. And it’s from the moment that everything is going wrong, that everything is grey. Because when you’re in a situation where you’re repressed, and he is a symbol of an entire population, then you have to be faithful to that point of view. You don’t think in terms of if the audience is sitting comfortably. But they’re being introduced to someone who is living a very hard life. I don’t think the audience mind that.
filmtogo: There are some recurring symbols in this film. Like the guns, of course, the cars or the highway. Why are these symbols so important for this film? The green car, for example?
Pitts: Well, the car is, the green car, it is not even a symbol. It now has become a symbol because of the situation in my country. But the car factor, you know, Teheran has become a metropolis. You have to spend more time in your car. Going back and forth to your work. You know, you will spend four hours in your car, it has become a secondary home, if you like. At the same time the reason why I shoot it the way we shot it is because I feel like it’s being hunted the way his life is being hunted.That’s why the camera is always following the car as though it was an animal about to be hunted. The colour green for the car came from the fact that I wanted the forest to have no leaves on the trees. And so the only element that’s alive in the film is a green car. It’s the only thing that is alive, so it is in contrast to the forest. The highways, i mean, i find that highways are very represantative of isolation of human beings. Not alone in my country, anywhere in the world. When you spend a lot of time on the highway, you’re very isolated and you don’t really interact with anybody. They always say, if you want to visit a country you should take the national roads and not the highways. Because than you’ll enjoy your driving. Whereas highways are cement and very hard. And at the same time it is the stream of life, the flow. It has become the modern rivers of economy.
filmtogo: You mentioned the forest before. Now we have this jungle of the city, the jungle of Teheran. Also we have the forest as some kind of a jungle. How do these two different jungles fit together?
Pitts: There’s a concrete jungle and there is a normal one. I just wanted to show that the central character, wheter he is in the forest or in the city, that he has no escape. The film is build like a mace, so you can’t escape. And his destiny is something he can’t escape. And that’s the tragedy of how I feel about my country. There is no escape.
filmtogo: You also mentioned before that the sound was very important for you. So you have all these sounds. You have the highway and all the other noises like a helicopter. And then we have all these characters with less conversations. So it’s more of a noisy film than a film with people talking.
Pitts: There’s a french filmmaker called Robert Bresson. He said it very well. He said that sound always evokes an image. An image never evokes a sound. By that meaning, your choice of sound will define what you’re looking at. Now if you listen carefully, the highways are not normal highways. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear waves from the sea in the highways because you’re trying to provoke an image. Sound is dialogue. You know, you don’t have to have dialogue to have a meaning. That’s what I think Robert Bresson meant by saying that sound evokes an image. If you have a close-up of a young woman and you hear the sounds of birds, you have one image. If you take the same close-up of the young woman and you hear bombs going off, you have another image. Yet it is the same image. Now that’s sound and that’s dialogue and that’s one of my obsessions. The central character in the film is repressed. If he was somebody who could talk, if he was somebody who could hit somebody or cry, he wouldn’t be capable of that violence because he set himself free by doing that. The whole point about why I took care of the dialogue is to show the repression. The fact that when you cannot speak or say what you think, you become much more violent than if you could speak and say what you think.
filmtogo: You’ve got these two policemen later in the film and, of course, the character of Ali. They’re not typically good or evil. They’re somewhere between. Why do not create this Hollywood hero who is good and the policemen as evil guys, in this case?
Pitts: Because I think that human beings are much more complicated. I think when human beings are simplified to good and evil, it is very dangerous. It is not black or white, it is grey. And I’ve been always interested in grey. The complexity of human beings is what interested me. I think when everything is simplified into the bad guy and the good guy, it is very dangerous because it is completely unreal. A bad guy probably has reasons to be who he is. And he is not responsible necessarily of those reasons. So this complexity is what I’m interested in. My character kills two policemen. Did he have the right to kill them? That is also a question I like to ask. I feel that as a filmmaker it’s more my job to ask questions than to give answers. That’s what I try to do in my film. I think the audience might have the answers but the filmmaker doesn’t.
filmtogo: Is this really a film about to criticise the political regime? Or is it your way of telling a story about the pain and the sorrow of a man who lost everything? Your film before this one was ‘It’s Winter’. This film is similiar to ‘Zeit des Zorns’, it has also a person who is confronted with this pain, but he reacts in an other way.
Pitts: I think that when you make a film, any film, regardless if you make it in Iran or anywhere else, I think filmmaking, the arts of filmmaking is to give it more dimensions than one. You can watch the film and look on the political view on a country. But that is only one story. You can look at it as a western, that’s another story. You can look at it as a neorealistic film observing the nature of mankind, that’s another story. So you hope as a filmmaker that you offer enough for the audience to be able to choose what they want to be looking at. I think if somebody who didn’t know anything about the political situation in my country sat down and watch the film, they can still watch it and see a universal drama in the sense of a story of revenge. Revenge belongs to all mankind. It doesn’t just belong to us. The thing that I always say about Iran is, we have a tradition. If we invite people to dinner, we offer them as many recipes as possible. We don’t give them one meal. We offer them as many as possible. But we don’t tell our guests what they should eat. And for me, my filmmaking is the same. I try to offer as much as possible and let the audience choose what side they want to be looking at. I don’t want to compare myself to great filmmakers, but the films I like the most, wheter it be Orson Wells or Hitchcock or anybody, all of the great filmmakers. What makes them so interesting is, that you can see them over and over again. The reason you can see them over and over again is, that they’re not just one flat line. If you make a film that is only one flat line, if this film was only a political statement, and it is definitely not a statement, but say a political question, that’s not enough for a film, for any film. If it was just a western, that’s not enough. And in great westerns, talking of Hollywood, they’re not just westerns. They go beyond the genre. And that’s the duty of a filmmaker. How do you go into depths and not remain on the surface. Because I don’t think the surface is worth 90 minutes.
filmtogo: Mentioning all these great directors, are there any director with influence in your work?
Pitts: Influence probably, consciously no. The reason why I say no is, that I try, you know, all the directors I admire and the ones I admire a great deal, one is called John Cassavettes, never tried to be somebody else. All the great directors loved cinema. John Cassavettes was a great fan of Frank Capra. I think the difficulty for a filmmaker is to be himself. That is the difficulty in making films. As much as you might admire other filmmakers, you can’t be them. So you have to be yourself. And it is the most difficult thing for a filmmaker to do, especially if you love cinema.
filmtogo: For this film you’re not only the director, you’re also the leading actor. How is the work as a director behind the camera and in the same time you have to be in front of the camera as the actor?
Pitts: Very complicated because I didn’t have a director to tell me wheter the take was good or bad. So what you then have to do is, be very sincere and therefore not act. As you’ve noticed in the story, because it is a story of a man losing his mind, when you’re not acting it is not very comfortable. So it took me to a very dark side of myself. When I see what happend in my country while we were making the film, it just got darker and darker. All of a sudden reality and fiction, it was like a collision of the two. It was very violent. What I intended to do was, to put myself in that position. I’ve lost someone really close to me and so if I take the scene when he meets the police officer who tells him that his wife is dead, that has an example. I spend my time trying to remember how it felt when it was announced to me in reality. So it was very hard to act and then it becomes very difficult when you’re supposed to snap out of it. It’s very hard because where you are is much more hard and real and cinema becomes so small. So for my assistants, when they would say what’ll we shoot the next day, I wasn’t really interested. That was the downsite because you have to have a wonderful crew in order to be so crazy. And they were a very good crew.
filmtogo: Do you fit in your own expectations as an actor or do you think a trained one could have done a better job?
Pitts: That’s for the audience to tell. But I think that being in the film or had I shot it with someone else or wheter it be me, whatever you do in a film, changes the film. It might have been a good film if I shot it with someone else. It would’ve been a different film. The fact that I was in the film made it extremly personal and it became the film that it is. Had I not been in the film it would be another film. It is very difficult to tell unless I done that.