by Afra Nariman
What’s the Time in Your World? (2014)
Director: Safi Yazdanian
Stars: Leila Hatami, Ali Mosaffa, Zahra Hatami
“I knew that eventually you would look out of the window, into the street…”
The placement of windows and use of reflections in Iranian cinema have always had specific intentions and have been of extreme importance in telling stories, expressing character emotions, communicating about larger social issues, and more. From the reflections exhibited in Kiarostami’s road films and the windows which frame his Koker Trilogy, to the direct and meta references to the notion of reflection in Panahi’s work, most explicitly in The Mirror (1997), to the reflections that define scenes in Makhmalbaf’s Poetic Trilogy, to Farhadi’s ingenious use of windows (and door frames generally) as a tool for framing and communicating about social issues while circumventing censors, and countless other examples — windows and reflections have consistently been used by Iranian filmmakers to navigate the symbolic tensions between interior and exterior spaces, the private and public realms of society. Windows and reflections are cinematic passage ways that allows us to observe characters, their emotions, and more closely, their circumstances — and what these things may mean in the world of the film.
In this film, these intentionally placed elements are used to further illustrate the developing veil between a woman and her past, her memories of her home in Iran and her shifting identity now that she has moved abroad into the diaspora. Over the course of the film, the windows depicted vary in how clear the view through them is — they’re generally more clear as the film progresses; the view through them becomes less tainted and foggy, indicating the gradual understanding of her own identity and her memories, in the context of both her new life abroad, but also in the home of her past. Additionally, at certain moments we observe the characters casually chipping away at the muck on the windows, cleaning the view through them themselves.
What’s the Time in Your World? explores the varying levels of importance that people and places have in each of our lives. As we all grow, and live, and struggle with our own experiences, our own identities — whether that be in new surroundings, around new people, or just new ways of understanding ourselves and the worlds we live in — those things that were once so important to us shift in priority, and often may reach a level of disconnect. Nevertheless, one’s roots always remain strong and present — the window that peers into our past, our memories, our identities can always be cleaned and made more clear in order for us to better understand ourselves and others, and to more closely experience the world.
Towards the end of the film, a rendition of the song Quizas, Quizas, Quizas (which translates to “perhaps”), finds its way into the film right at the moment that the film’s protagonist is beginning to come to terms with her past and her present. Of course, this song is most famously used in Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000), one of the great films about memory, time, love, and how these things intersect to shape one’s life. Similar themes find their way into What’s the Time in Your World?
Filled with countless moments of magical realism, the film explores the influence that our past has on our present, and the present ultimately has on our memories of the past; and therefore on our perspectives of our past decisions, and our forever shifting identities.
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