Untying the Knot (2007) – (short film)

by Afra Nariman

Untying the Knot (2007)

(Panahi’s segment from the anthology film, Persian Carpet)

Director: Jafar Panahi


A 7-minute short about a pair of siblings who approach carpet salesmen, hoping to sell their carpet and raise money that they desperately need to get by. 

Panahi opens the film with the following words, inviting us to view what follows through a symbolic lens. 

“Today, over a thousand knots are woven in the texture of a carpet. Tomorrow, they might un-knot our life problems.”

Untying the Knot addresses the intersection between art and business, and through this the intersection between humanity and economy, community and society — can the two coexist? 

Like the weave of a Persian carpet, we in society are all interconnected; our every action and every decision impacting those we come into contact with. The modern world is structured in such a way that empathy is often ignored for the sake of an individual’s own survival — and thus, suffering ensues, and struggle persists. The built-in surface of society is reminiscent of bureaucracy — people always expect someone else to make the necessary fixes, or to extend a hand of kindness, so they never do themselves; thus making the stream of struggle endless, with only temporary stepping stones of relief along the way. This becomes an obstacle that stands in the way of both larger societal solutions, and momentary instances that could go a long way in helping individuals make it to the next day.

The final image of this film says it all. Having just sold their carpet, the siblings rush towards a window. The sister doesn’t think they were given enough money as to part with an object that likely carries much sentimental value. The brother, in his heart agrees with his sister; but explains that the merchant wouldn’t pay a cent more — he had already haggled to get the price they were given. As they watch their carpet being taken away from them, merely so that they could get by, there is a look of desperation and a sense of mourning — of losing something of the past, of family and tradition. In this final image, the siblings are looking from behind a window; the frame of which resembles a sort of caged prison — one which they must stay behind, as they watch an element of their family tradition being taken from them. The film ends as they turn from the window and reluctantly rush out, back into the society whose conditions had led them there in the first place. This society is forever separating them from their symbolic carpet — from something lost — which remains behind the cage-like window that they were forced to turn away from in their struggle to survive in the society that they are bound to.

Free Jafar Panahi 💚🤍❤️


Rating: 4 out of 5.

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