We asked one of our favourite fellow cultural activists, artists and filmmakers Andrea Luka Zimmerman (‘Erase and Forget’, ‘Here For Life’) to curate a film list for Loneliness Awareness Week (15-19 June). Andrea’s second choice is: The House is Black – an acclaimed Iranian doc short directed by Forough Farrokhzad.
Released in 1963
Here’s Andrea, explaining why she chose these films.
An invitation to think about cinema and loneliness is of course also a chance to think about the nature of cinema itself, especially at a time like this. Isolated in our separate units, we are experiencing the collectivity of the film viewing experience in an atomised way. Is the eye / I lonely in this process? Does it really believe that there are others like it out beyond the window engaged in the same activity?
Cinema and loneliness are also sisters in another way, because so many films (the vast majority) are about individuals and their search for meaning. This of course is where most loneliness is felt, but in my choices here I have also wanted to draw attention to forms of collective loneliness. In addition, I did not want to leave loneliness with the last word. Rather, I wanted it to look in the mirror (the cinema screen) and discover its often hidden, secret twin: solitude. Being able to be at ease with oneself, companionable with oneself, is perhaps one of the great successes of the ‘individual’ life. But cinema will always remind us of the power, mystery and finally solidarity of sharing an experience with others. I hope these films will surprise, provoke, unsettle and always, however darkly luminous their projection, entertain you.
I don’t want to in any way preempt ones encounter with these titles, if you are viewing them for the first time. I would just say that if Dreams of a Life explores an absolute ground zero of contemporary experience, one not to be wished on anyone, then The House Is Black (Forough Farrokhzad) and The Apple (Samira Makhmalbaf) suggest different ways in which loneliness can be imposed on more than one person, even socialized.
Ideas of such imposition, by larger historical, social and economic forces, inform Atlantics (Matti Diop), set as it is within the melancholy roar of the sea. That sensibility, however, can also be found far inland, as Vagabond (Agnes Varda) shows, with its protagonist venturing in every sense to the interior. Finally, as suggested above, sudden loss can, if the stars and the will are aligned, as in Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay), turn into a rewarding and expansive solitude.
THE HOUSE IS BLACKخانه سیاه است Directed by Forough Farrokhzad
The film is a look at life and suffering in a leper colony and focuses on the human condition and the beauty of creation. It is spliced with Farrokhzad’s narration of quotes from the Old Testament, the Koran and her own poetry. The film features footage from the Bababaghi Hospice leper colony. It was the only film she directed before her death in 1967.
During shooting, she became attached to a child of two lepers, whom she later adopted.
Although the film attracted little attention outside Iran when released, it has since been recognised as a landmark in Iranian film. Reviewer Eric Henderson described the film as “[o]ne of the prototypal essay films, The House is Black paved the way for the Iranian New Wave.
WHERE TO WATCH