A Moment of Innocence
While Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf is no stranger to long, long shots gazing down long, long roads for a long, long time, he also knows how to tell a story.
Reviewed by Rachel Proctor May, Fri., Feb. 28, 2003
A MOMENT OF INNOCENCE (1996)
D: Mohsen Makhmalbaf; with Makhmalbaf, Mirhadi Tayebi, Ammar Tafti, Ali Bakhsi, Maryam Mohamadamini.
When veteran Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Kandahar) was holding auditions for his 1995 film, Salaam Cinema, one of the hundreds of nonprofessional actors who showed up was a middle-aged ex-policeman. As fate would have it, this was the same policeman that Makhmalbaf had stabbed 20 years earlier, when the director was a teenage revolutionary. The coincidence inspired Makhmalbaf to make a film in which the director and the policeman shoot a film re-creating the stabbing incident. The result is A Moment of Innocence, an engaging and original blurring of past and present, fiction and reality. In the world depicted in Makhmalbaf's films, every person has an alter ego, and every alter ego has a double. It's a world in which truth is only found by confronting multiple versions of reality. There's plenty of confrontation to be had in A Moment of Innocence as Makhmalbaf the character (played by Makhmalbaf himself) and the policeman begin directing the actors who play their younger selves. While each clearly hopes to change the past by re-enacting it, their younger "selves" refuse to cooperate. Instead, they lose their props, flub their entrances, and forget their lines. Makhmalbaf the director displays the unhurried pace and pensive tone that make some folks find Iranian arthouse flicks boring -- er, excessively contemplative. But while Makhmalbaf is no stranger to long, long shots gazing down long, long roads for a long, long time, he also knows how to tell a story. A Moment of Innocence may be slow, but it's steady, moving as gently and inexorably toward its surprising conclusion as the snow that falls endlessly over its cold, damp, befuddled characters.