Hit the Road (2022)

by Afra Nariman

Hit the Road (2022)

Director: Panah Panahi

Stars: Hasan Ma’juni, Pantea Panahiha, Rayan Sarlak, Amin Simiar

REVIEW:

There are a few certain frames in Hit the Road that seem to be placed, crafted, and shot to mirror various Kiarostami films. Also with the car as a main location of sorts, or a “home” for its characters and the story — as well as the emphasis on nature and landscapes, you can’t help but feel the connection that Panah Panahi, in his direction of this film, feels and has to Kiarostami’s work (as well as to his father’s) and to the roots of Iranian cinema generally — it’s tradition, form, aesthetic, and its correlation with the theme of “truth” (i.e: see the multiple instances referring to the idea of honesty). All that being said, Panahi’s own, unique cinematic voice is present throughout nearly each scene of his debut. 

So, while the film has many of the aforementioned elements that tie it to the traditional roots of Iranian cinema, a new take on storytelling still becomes the basis of Panahi’s film, not only through its balanced integration of comedy, but also through its referencing of Western/American characters and films such as Batman (presumably from The Dark Knight Trilogy) and 2001: A Space Odyssey — both of which also work to inform important moments in the film, through being the topics of emotionally charged mother/son and father/son conversations that discuss the listed films and characters in a way which feels thematically relevant to the film’s story and events. Particularly interesting is the influence that 2001: A Space Odyssey seems to end up having. It begins with the mother of the family asking her oldest son what he thinks the best film of all time is. To this, like most lovers of film would probably react, he resists answering, claiming that it’s an impossible question. Shortly after though, he resorts to claiming its Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi classic. She asks him, “Is it beautiful?” 

He responds: 

“Yes, it really is. It’s like zen. When you watch it, it calms you down. It takes you deep into galaxies.”

She asks him what happens at the end of 2001

He responds:

“At the end, the man is alone in a spaceship. He goes deep into a black hole. He keeps going and going and going. For 30 minutes it just shows that he’s going and going deeper in. Crossing the limits of time and space…”

Near the end of this film, after an emotional and utterly sad moment in which the oldest son has officially left the family and the country (unexpectedly too soon), and as the rest of the family drives away; the camera is set in the POV of the moving car, and we see the road in front of them being swallowed up by the camera as they pass by time and space in their own way, and it looks eerily similar to the scene that the older brother referenced from 2001 — it’s mesmerizing — only it’s not in space, though it is a different sort of black hole in some ways. We don’t see bright lights, we see barren landscapes. This moment draws our attention back to the film’s opening, where the mother asks “where are we?” and the sarcastic youngest son replies, “we’re dead.” Of course, at that point nobody was dead and we weren’t even sure why the family was on a road trip yet. Now, at the end of the film, they are short one family member and unsure of his well-being and whereabouts, and immediately after this POV scene, we learn that the family dog has passed away. 

The film ends with one last blending of an ode to Kiarostami and the traditional, with Panahi’s own, new and original voice. While the parents are burying the family dog, the youngest son begins to lip sync to a song. This surely matches his personality and actions throughout the film; only in this instance, he breaks the fourth wall by looking right at the camera when he sings, acknowledging its presence and ours, and therefore the camera’s implications. In other words, Panahi makes sure to remind us that we are only watching a film — something Kiarostami was always quick to emphasize, most notably in his beautifully unique choice of ending for Taste of Cherry. But again, Panahi does so in his own way.

MY RATING /5:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

View this Review on Letterboxd: https://boxd.it/32UGVn

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