Directed by Abed AbestFeatured at the Boston Festival of Films from Iran
January 4–17, 2018
Actor, writer, and director Abed Abest’s Simulation opens in an avant-garde black-box theater, with the cast stepping into the spotlight and subtitles identifying their coming roles: Father, Elham, Maryam, the four protagonists Abed, Vahid, Aris, and Esi, and various prison officials. Eerie, thumping, surreal sounds play throughout the movie, with crackling electricity and blown fuses later on.
Everything in the black box is stripped down and unnatural, including the lighting. The principal prison set consists of two-by-fours painted in lime green that create a spare framework of several rooms, in one of them a prison official’s desk and a phone. The other main set is the businessman Esi’s living room with slick green couches. All of the characters wear the same neon blue shoes and all vehicles are giant, menacing, white Land Rovers. The sets are ultra-sterile in contrast to the arguing male protagonists and the strange background sounds.
On the screen, we watch experimental theater more than standard film; the visual, auditory, and scene-setting novelties, along with the rapid-fire dialogues and mind-bending plot could be handled just as effectively on the stage. Even the aseptic, clone effect of the Land Rovers (similar to the cloned quality of the characters in blue shoes) could be creatively rendered. But then, theater has often crossed with film, and Simulation offers original and provocative material.
Filmgoers who like Christopher Nolan’s Memento and Inception will like the mind-teasing plot of Simulation; and theatergoers who sit on the edge of their chairs during Sartre’s No Exit will also be fascinated by this film. What do these genres have in common? Plot, concept, and subject more than sympathetic characters and traditional story line. Both are outside ordinary human life and exist in a time capsule of skewed and hellish consciousness. The “contrivance” in these creative works succeeds if the audience is able to watch what unfolds without thinking about the contrivance, but instead entering fully into the abstract sphere and its premise. Simulation succeeds in this, never losing the attention of its audience, who will also enjoy pondering the manifold meanings of the title.
One of the notable achievements of the movie is its presentation of young men hanging out, looking for some night fun, and how they talk to each other—the content and style of their conversations. The material is revelatory about men’s insipid repartee and how with alcohol the banality escalates to fights and police involvement. It’s not the action the men hoped for, but there’s something innate in their chemistry that needs an outlet for force.