Movie Review - Dark Matter

With Hollywood often being an unstoppable machine that churns out hundreds of films each year, it’s easy to forget that producing films can be an act of disobedience. In the Iranian film business, for example, becoming a filmmaker entails submitting to censorship or suffering persecution from the government, thereby jeopardizing your freedom. Given this, it’s remarkable that Iranian filmmaker Karim Lakzaheh was able to complete Dark Matter, a fascinating film on the power of cinema. However, as important as it may be as a political instrument, its experimental narrative method tests the audience’s capacity to connect with it.

Dark Matter follows Mahdis Mahdiyar and Keivan Parmar, two ambitious actors who put their day jobs on the line in the hopes of landing roles in an Iranian film. They don’t get the parts, but instead of going back to their ordinary lives, the friends decide to take matters into their own hands and produce a film themselves, with the aid of aspiring filmmaker Ziya (Iman Sayyadborhani). While the three have plenty of ambition, filming a movie without money is impossible, so they plot a burglary to help fund the production.

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A narrative about filmmakers who turn to crime to maintain producing art is creative. Dark Matter, on the other hand, seems uninterested in the robbery. Instead, the film depicts a frantic voyage in which reality and fantasy collide, destroying the boundaries between art and life. The bare-bones directorial technique adds to the potency of the message. That’s because, like the character in his film, Lakzadeh uses a camera to transform mundane reality into something fantastic. Some of the greatest filmmakers of all time, such as Jean-Luc Godard and Fran├žois Truffaut, taught the importance of seeing cinema as a wild beast that should be let loose rather than trapped by overproduction. However, by imitating the French New Wave aesthetic, Dark Matter reproduces the movement’s lack of cohesion.

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In Dark Matter, the filmmaking three are continuously debating what type of film they should produce, utilizing the strange occurrences brought about by fate as raw material for their artistic creativity. While metalinguistic awareness can be enthralling, its exploding inventiveness is frequently suffocated by self-referential criticism. That’s because the film breaks the fourth wall by having its actors focus their eyes on the audience and explain some of Lakzadeh’s choices. The goal is to blur the line between reality, the movie, and the movie inside a movie. Even though such appears to be the case on paper, the repeating of this material dampens immersion and leads to an inconsistent pace.

There’s also something to be said about the performances in the film. Dark Matter is a difficult endeavor for performers since they must perform while also demonstrating their understanding of the film’s narrative structure. However, the acting may frequently become too overdone to be taken seriously, undermining the film’s emotional stakes. And, while the major premise of Dark Matter is that there is no distinction between reality and filmmaking, it’s difficult to worry about the destiny of its characters without a clear emotional hook.

There’s also something to be said about the performances in the film. Dark Matter is a difficult endeavor for performers since they must perform while also demonstrating their understanding of the film’s narrative structure. However, the acting may frequently become too overdone to be taken seriously, undermining the film’s emotional stakes. And, while the major premise of Dark Matter is that there is no distinction between reality and filmmaking, it’s difficult to worry about the destiny of its characters without a clear emotional hook.

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Dark Matter was shot in Iran under the radar of censorship, only to be shown at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival without permission from the government. The most visible manifestation of the film’s political ethos is Lakzadeh’s refusal to comply with the hijab rule, which requires all female characters in an audiovisual production to have their hair covered at all times. Apart from not adhering to this stringent Iranian law, Dark Matter utilizes the scenario to argue that a censored film cannot be an honest work of art.

This rebellious attitude extends beyond the portrayal of independent female characters. The entire film is about marginalized individuals pursuing their aspirations and being thwarted by a society that does not encourage its youth. It’s an unvarnished picture of Iran that defies the official language of peace and prosperity, which is represented in censored Iranian films. Since the Iranian Revolution, there has been an effort to silence any tale that is founded on contradiction and free thought. It’s no surprise that some of Iran’s most interesting films, such as Under the Shadow and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, were shot overseas.

Dark Matter is a crucial work of film because of what it symbolizes in the backdrop of Iranian tyranny. Yes, it’s a little rough around the edges, and it doesn’t accomplish much with its intriguing premise. Nonetheless, the fact that Lakzadeh shot his insurgent film in and around Tehran, Iran’s capital, elevates it to a significant record of the country’s emerging wave of social discontent that condemns police brutality and demands equal rights for women.

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