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Women’s Representation in Three Iranian Films

  • “Maybe Some Other Time”
  • “ The Travellers”
  • “Killing Mad Dogs”

Woman: the contrast between tradition and modernity

This article pays to the narration analysis of three films of Bahram Beizai’s cinematic works whose names are: Maybe Some Other Time, Travellers and the Killing mad Dogs, having been constructed between 66 to 79 time intervals. The principle aim of this article is answering to these questions: The first thing is that: how has the woman been represented in cinematic works of Bahram Beizai who is one of the most noticeable man stage directors in the cinema of Iran and that does his masculinity influence on his kind of view towards women and their problems or not?

By reviewing the research literature, we come to this conclusion that most of the activities in the area of Iran cinema is based on the axis of artistic and aesthetics look, or in other words, on the introspective criticism of cinema and the especial activity in the field of cinema concerning the representation of women and their problems in the works of a film maker man is not seen. For this reason, the cinematic works of this prominent stage director was chosen and examined for this analysis.

Key concepts:

In this article, the effort has been made to investigate the place and the picture of a woman in the cinematic works of Bahram Banzai, one of the most noticeable men stage directors in the cinema of Iran. In other words, we are searching for this answer that how this stage director has represented women in his works and what features he has attributed to them?

Another aspect of this research which is very significant and can be a new horizon in the activity concerning women in mass media is the investigation of the role of a filmmaker and stage director’s gender in representing women and their problems. , to what extent does the gender of a filmmaker (either a man or woman) influence on the kind of the stage director’s view on women? Are the filmmaker and stage director men’s views toward women and their problems different from those of women?

Some of the theorists believe that generally mass media, including cinema, represents women as a means or marginal existence in such a way that this representation hasn’t got to do with the reality as well as the complexity of their life. Generally, in mass media, men are regarded as wise, powerful, efficient creatures, and the source of power with high positions whereas women are considered emotional, dependent, weak and passive.

According to Tuchman: “symbolically, the cinema has ignored women, drives them to the margin and by showing the majority of men in all sorts of cinematic programs, in fact, tells the society that women are not so much important. Not only does the television tell us that women are not worth except at the status of a housekeeper and mother, but also, by depicting women as inefficient and humble individuals who are always at the service of men, symbolically despise and scorn them.”(Based on the quote of Ven Zoen, 2001, page 16)

1-The representation: The meaning of representation in mass media in Richard Dyer includes: “The method of the construction of mass media about individuals, places, things, cultural identities and other abstract concepts. The manifestation of representations may be in oral, written forms or dynamic pictures.”(Dyer, 1993, page 18)

“Therefore, the concept of representation in this research includes the method of the manifestation of a social reality which in this research women have been regarded as the social reality.”(Sedighi Khooydaki, 1384,page12)

2-Gender: “Before the definition of the concept of gender, the meaning of the generic state should also be defined so that the meaning of the word gender becomes more obvious. There is a meaningful difference between gender and the generic state whose origin should be searched in culture.”

“Gender” refers to the biological differences between man and woman and the generic state is the personal, psychological features that the society determines and is along with being a man or woman or so-called “femininity” and “masculinity”.

Femininity is a term for the description of being a woman that is made up, paid to and attributed to women in society. For example, femininity is along with such features as kindness, affection, sensitiveness, dependence and roles such as mother, wife and nurse. But, masculinity is the opposite of that and features like logic, wisdom and the roles such as manager, physician, lawyer and etc. have been considered suitable for men.

Therefore, in this article, with the definition of these present concepts, we are searching for this matter that how women have been manifested and portrayed in the works of this stage director and, on the other hand, how much the experiences, awareness and characteristic features that women acquire in the society influence on the method of this representation. We will investigate this case in the chapter which is related to the analysis of this stage director’s films.

The experimental background:

The focus of the research mainly done about cinema has been more on the investigation of technical, aesthetics and optical aspects of films have taken advantage of the method of the introspective criticism of the film. That is, they have paid to the investigation of the techniques of film making, phototaxis, sound, picture, and montage. The reason is that in Iran the cinematic studies in the field of sociology have no place and film and cinema are treated more as an artistic, aesthetic phenomena. In this field, after various researches, it was specified that research under the title of “The Representation of Woman in Iran Cinema” has been rare and especially research having paid to the representation of women in the works of a man stage director has not been done. But, some research has been done on the sociology of Iran cinema. (Sedighi Khooydaki 1384)

The meaning of narration:

The psychological analysis of the film is the newest branch of semiotics which having been appeared from inside the critical innovations which have presented new definitions about the theory of film in the 1970’s decades. Although it has created its special terms and research methods, openly its root is in the main movements of semiotics in our period. “The narrative analysis like all the researches of semiotics intends to remove the apparently natural and justified skin between the signifier and the world of the story and reveals the deeper system of associations and cultural relations which are stated from among the narrative form. If the conventional elements of narrative structure (characters), sketching the plan and conspiracy, scenery, moving points and timing are seen from behind the methodology of semiotics, they can be regarded as the systems of signs having been organized based on different signs. Each of the signs transfers totally special messages related to the world of the story in different ways.”

Mass media, including cinema, is one of the main means of representing the world and transferring it to us. One of the methods of Hayayen is the representation of the use of narration.”

“Lorel Richardson” believes that: “Narration is both a method of deduction and the representation. Human beings can realize the world in a framework of narration and based on it tell about the world.”

Narrations and the simplest concepts are the stories which occur at the same time. Narration includes “telling” two or more narrations (a situation or incident) logically related to each other, occur at the same time and through a fixed subject are constituted as a whole.

The analysis of the films:

Maybe Some Other Time: The summary of the film: Modaber, the speaker of the texts of cinematic films, on a Moovila page, in a scene of a documentary film sees his wife, Kian, in a stranger’s car. Through his friends, he meets a stranger, named Mr Haghnegar, who is an antique seller and infers that Vida, the woman seen in the film, is the twin sister of Kian as well as Mr Haghnegar’s wife. Modaber having found a way through his friend to Hghnegar’s house with the excuse of providing a film about antique works, asks Kian to join them. After meeting with Vida, Kian finds out that their father had died in their childhood and their mother, because of poverty, had put Kian on the way and a couple had reared her up. After coming out of Haghnegar’s house, she feels that she found herself.

In the movie “Maybe Some Other Time” nightmare, insecurity, identity, disturbance, poverty, man’s sensitivity, chase and escape, mother’s love, dog, nursery, illness etc.

The represented women are of different kinds in the film the most principle of whom is the woman who has got too many psychological problems because of an identity crisis. This problem as well as her inner confused thoughts prevents her from having a good and normal life. This problem shows a kind of protection of women and attention to their problems for having a safe and healthy family because women’s inner confusions or their disturbances act as obstacles against them to have an ideal and suitable life, and so cover all of the aspects of their life.

In fact, in spite of all her husband’s insistence and even accusations, she remains silent and we see a kind of silence and complexity that the audience accompanies up to the end of the film. It is only at the end of the film that we infer her piety, justice and purity. In fact, the fear of expressing her reality has caused her silence and finally complexity. Her worry and fear are not her innate characteristics but derive from understanding the reality of her husband and having been rejected by him. All of these states are derived from her interest as well as heartily emotion towards her husband and her identity crisis is because of her past in which she was searching for herself and was unaware of the reality.

In the end, the problem of the woman’s identity in this film can be the most principle justification for her disturbances, insecurities, and worries and we see that after understanding the reality and the solution to her problem, she changes into a human with natural conditions.

The protection of women is seen by showing the problem of identity in this film. It is in such a way that it can be said in a society whose women have the problem of an identity crisis, they are not expected to have positive and ideal conditions and finally, it transfers to the next generation. With this definition, it can be said that women and the problem of their identity constitute the most principle axes of this film.


The Travelers:

The summary of the story: A house is prepared for a wedding. Meanwhile, the news is given that some of the bride’s relatives are killed in an accident. After some time, in accepting the news, at last, the catastrophe is affirmed. The funeral ceremony is held while no one thinks about the destiny of that young couple.

Of elements and signs of the film include: mirror, the concurrence of life and death, happiness and sadness, doubt and certainty, laugh and cry, traditionalism and modernism and such contrasts can allude. The film is stared with its movement on the individuals and, following it, we see the cold face of a woman whose face is in front of the camera and informs us about the future and death. Mahrokh is preparing herself for her wedding and meanwhile waiting for her older sister’s arrival and presence in her celebration. Mahrokh is excited, kind, interested in her husband and family, hopeful, and dependent on the traditions and family beliefs.

In this film, we face a woman who is hopeful, and interested in life, as well as her husband and family. Although she has lost her family and lived with her grandmother, has still a childish and happy spirit with a hopeful look towards the future. Also, no signs of abolished relations between mother-in-law, sister-in-law and bride are seen in her relation with her brother’s wife and even her new family.

In this film, other valuable women are seen at the beginning of which the grandmother can allude to who, in spite of the holding of the funeral ceremony of the older daughter and her family, is still hopeful and waiting for their arrival and such a great sadness doesn’t tire her out. She is a woman that is not yielded to the present condition and asking Mahrokh to wear her wedding dress in the funeral ceremony, displays her utmost struggle and non-acceptance of the present condition. Although she is a woman dependent on the traditions, her view is not limited and traditional and still looks forward to arriving at her dears.

The circles of the film from happiness to sadness, doubt to certainty, a nightmare to submission and death to hope can be felt with all one’s existence. The Travelers is not the film of the dead, but the film of the live travellers on a road whose meaning is not separation. The interesting thing is that the men in the funeral ceremony are the first group who, secretly, express some sentences concerning the madness of the grandmother. The number of these men in comparison to the women, who have such murmurs, is much more.

Killing Mad Dogs:

The summary of the film: An Iranian woman writer, named Golrokh Kamali, who had left her husband, Nasar Moaser, last year because of her suspicion of his relationship with the secretary of his company, returns to Tehran at the end of the war and sees her husband who has become broke and is going to prison. Golrokh understands that her husband’s counterpart, by conspiracy, has taken the entire fund of the company and illegally has gone out of the border; her husband has remained alone with all the debts of the company and the pressures on behalf of the creditors. Golrokh Kamali feels responsible to hurry to save her husband, in compensation for her suspicion towards him, so she tries to pay the creditors’ purchases, proves his innocence and gets the complaints’ satisfaction for her husband’s freedom. In fact, Golrokh Kamali, with her simplicity of heart enters the profession and the world which is too far from her thoughts and is the world of commerce. She deals with each of the creditors and complaints to attract their satisfaction for her husband and, in this case, goes to the extent that has no way to return and understands that she has entered into a battle in which she must no longer be defeated. She tolerates everything, from despising and insult to annoyance and violence. In the end, she sets her husband free. But, as thanks to her, he gives her the divorcee letter. Golrokh finds out that all of these plays have been her husband’s deceptions that by frightening and causing him to escape, his counterpart possesses all the investment of the company and now by having the satisfaction letter of the complaints, Golrokh having got it for him, he is practically the legal owner of it and as the first step, he intends to go abroad with his secretary for honeymoon. Golrokh tolerates her husband’s stroke with patience but the plan of the Naser Moaser is failed because his counterpart has returned and others have followed Golrokh in all her efforts for her husband’s freedom, and have been aware and waiting as much as Nasser Moaser, arrive.

Of major signs of this film are cat, disturbance, anger among people, wrongdoing, betrayal, and the presence of a traditional and modern woman. Concerning the traditional and modern woman displayed in the film, a common characteristic can be found and that is an effort for attracting the satisfaction and the love of the husband. The old man’s wife (one of the creditors) and Golrokh are both of those women who ignore many things on account of their interest in their husband, although they live in two completely different spaces.

Golrokh is a socially active, writer who belongs to a high cultural, and social family. She had left her husband because of her doubt about his secret relationship with the secretary of his company. After one year, she returns to Tehran but doesn’t find him. Through the intermediates, she deals with him and in order to compensate for her separation and past improper doubt accepts to buy one-third of his husband’s protest checks from the creditors to set her husband free from prison. Meanwhile, she confronts many hardships and troubles and after getting each of the checks, goes to the prison to meet her husband to show them to him and strengthen his spirit. Meanwhile, he faces many men and their shameful suggestions, but at last, she achieves her ideal goal and when she successfully goes to her husband to release and make him happy, as a reward, her husband gives her the document of his marriage with his secretary. But, we see that she doesn’t become defeated and depressed and with this beautiful expression that: “I have tried my abilities or proved myself somehow” comes out from this intolerable pressure, but after that, she doesn’t stop her movement. We become witnesses to her quick movement on a road which is forward to the future.

In this film, we face a social, strong, decided, flexible, pure, undefeatable, high-spirited, far-sighted, lover, hopeful woman and we see the ability of each work in her, whereas none of the men of the film has it. In fact, there is no equality and harmony between the woman and the men in the film, and the filmmaker, by juxtaposing the cat and the man, epitomizes the cat-like quality of the man in this film.

The women of Baizai’s films are perfectionists, challengers and strong, not the shadow and the followers of women whatsoever. These women are the deviators of the tradition who don’t yield to destiny and have the main role in this film.


The upward movement of women’s presence in the cinema of Iran is seen in the cinematic works of Bahram Baizai, and in the film “Maybe Some other Time” we are witnessing the life of a woman who has a problem with her identity crisis has created a difficult and disturbing condition for her. But, these conditions in the film “The Travelers” has improved and we face a kind of Mahrokh who is hopeful and interested in her life and husband although she has lost her family in her childhood and lived with her grandmother, has still a childish and happy spirit along with a hopeful view towards the future. In this film, other valuable women are seen as well at the beginning to which grandmother can allude. In spite of holding the funeral ceremony of the older daughter and her family, she is still hopeful and waiting for their arrival. She is a woman that is not yielded to the present condition and asking Mahrokh to wear her wedding dress in the funeral ceremony, displays her utmost struggle and non-acceptance of the present condition. Although she is a woman dependent on the traditions, her view is not limited and traditional and still looks forward to arriving at her dears.

Besides the grandmother, we see Mastan who is another strong woman. She is the witness to the economical condition of the house and continuously, in difficult and intolerable conditions, inspires her husband and makes him hopeful towards a better future. Mastan’s most essential features are patience, love for her husband, flexibility and control of the affairs.

Hamdam is another woman in this film, She is a woman who is reproached by her ignorant husband, but she is so self-sacrificed that, in spite of the 50% probability of her death, she accepts to become pregnant to satisfy her husband. She is a kind-hearted woman from whose face one cannot easily infer her gentle spirit.

The climactic point of strength and persistence is displayed in the film: “Killing Mad Dogs”. In this film, Golrokh, because of her love for her husband, tolerates all of the difficulties heartily, but after tolerating too many hardships and sufferings she confronts her husband’s betrayal. More noticeable thing than that is that her husband gives the document of his marriage with the secretary of his company to his wife and we still see the patience and persistence in this woman and she sets herself free from the pressure by saying that she has tried and approved herself and following it, we don’t see her motionless and sad, but, she walks on the road which is towards the progress.

With regard to the analyses done, in answer to the research questions, it can be said that women, in Bayzai’s films, are represented based on the reality and the complexity of their life. These women are of high social and cultural classes and far from the social classes in which they have lied and it can be said that women in his works are in an upward movement and the climatic point of this power and persistence can be seen in his last film “Killing Mad Dogs”

Fixed elements such as identity, the acceptance of tradition and modernity, the society and the stranger element concerning women are seen in his film and generally, we can get to this point that in Beizai’s films, the dignity of the woman is not the same as the men, and the woman has especial power and abilities which aren’t found in any man. These women are able to do the works that other men cannot cope with them. Also, such contradictory features in them as emotion, rationality, flexibility, and persistence .which add to their positive value and complexity. Being undefeated, flexible, laborious in changing the unsuitable conditions, hopeful and lover of husband are the fixed characteristics of the women in his films.

Source by Saeideh Hajinejad

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