There is a sequence in the Iranian film UNDER THE SHADOW (2016) in which the protagonist and her daughter are picked up by the moral police in the middle of a curfewed night when they have stepped out of their apartment block to escape mysterious occurrences inside their flat. They are taken to a police station where she is charged with wearing clothes antithetical to Islamic culture; she is given a burqa to wear before she can meet the chief who lets her off with a warning. When she returns home, she is suddenly panic-stricken to see a shadow in the mirror: it’s her own reflection in the burqa.
Set during the 8-year long war between Iran and Iraq in the 80s, the film deals with a married woman who is denied resumption of her medical studies because of her previous record of being a left-wing student activist prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Smarting under the rejection and trying to cope with the constant threat of bombings, she and her daughter spend time alone in their flat while her husband – a doctor, is sent to the war zone. The mother and daughter soon experience inexplicable sightings inside their flat that gradually assume threatening proportions…
Director Babak Anvari uses horror and enclosed space as a metaphor to underscore not only the horrors of the war but also the place of women in a radical Islamist society. Quite a hard-hitting film, this one.
Playing on Netflix.
Ranjan Das is a Mumbai based filmmaker and faculty.