4 April 2019 | corrosion-2
A Persian Lord of the Rings
Though Iranian cinema is one of the well-known and respected members of the global world of cinema, thanks to filmmakers such as Kiarostami, Farhadi, Panahi, etc.; none of the Iranian films that have made a mark on the world stage have been animations. A few amateurish Iranian animations, targeted strictly at kids, have had some local box office success but they've not been of a standard which could be exhibited in foreign markets.
However, with The Last Fiction, this pattern is set to change. The Last Fiction is an animation film based on the stories of The Shahnameh, a massive 11th-century work by Persian poet Ferdowsi, arguably the greatest book in the Persian language. A sort of Persian Lord of the Rings, written all in verse, it tells the stories of legends, heroes and villains, monsters and myths. In the opening credit sequence of the Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani's recent remake of Fahrenheit 451, The Shahnameh is one of the great works of world literature which is shown burning.
A young Iranian animation director, Ashkan Rahgozar, for his feature film debut, has somehow not only found financial backers for this ambitious project but has also amassed a galaxy of Iranian film stars to voice the characters. Rahgozar wisely uses only a miniscule part of the Shahnameh and focuses on the stories of the evil ruler Zahak, his young nemesis Afaridoun and, what must be one of the earliest working-class heroes in literature, Kaveh, the Blacksmith. All the traditional elements of such stories are there: sword and sorcery, monsters, a love story, setbacks and triumphs.
The animation techniques used in The Last Fiction are head and shoulders above all the other Iranian animated films and compare favourably with great works of world animation. Using beautifully drawn animations, supplemented by powerful music and backed by a strong narrative, The Last Fiction is a highly impressive debut and a landmark in the history of Iranian cinema. Though familiarity with stories and legends of The Shahnameh helps, even those unfamiliar with this book, should be able to follow the narrative without any difficulty and take pleasure in its audio-visual delights.