Rewarded by the Grand Prix at the last Cannes Film Festival, Asghar Farhadi evokes “A hero”, a drama around a subject which has been close to his heart for many years.
Three years after opening (and dividing) with Everybody Knows, his Spanish-language drama, Asghar Farhadi returned to Cannes with A Hero, set in his native Iran. Take the story of a prisoner whose life turns unexpectedly during a two-day leave.
Awarded a Grand Prix (tied with Compartment N ° 6), the feature film tackles a subject close to the heart of the director and screenwriter, as he explained to us during his visit to Paris a few months later.
AlloCiné: The story of “A hero” seems very plausible and universal. Did a true story inspire the screenplay? Or even several?
Asghar Farhadi : A film never comes from a single fact. It’s never such a direct relationship, but always a combination of circumstances. There is a kind of confluence that takes place and causes something to spring up, that things are built up little by little. Here, in this case, the concept comes to me from when I was a student and I saw a performance of a play by Bertolt Brecht, “The life of Galileo”.
From then on, the question of the making of the hero interested me and provoked a reflection in a personal capacity. At the time, I had no idea at all that I was going to be a filmmaker, let alone that I wanted to make a film out of it. It’s just a topic that interested me. Subsequently, throughout my life, when I heard, read or saw on television the story of these people who, suddenly, are brought to light because they have committed an act that we want to erect as an example, I have always been interested in these stories. I picked them up.
And then, eight or nine years ago, I was teaching in a film workshop as I often do. And as a simple educational project, I suggested to my students to divide into groups of two or three people, and I myself transmitted to them some of these stories that I had noticed in the press. I also asked them to try to find others, and to do small topics on these people, on courses of this type.
But, there again, that did not go beyond the framework of the reflection and the educational process. It was only later, when I was coming back from Spain after filming Everybody Knows, on my return to Iran, that I said to myself that this concept, this subject which had occupied and interested me for years, could deserve that I linger there more to write a story that has this subject in its heart.
The issue of hero making interested me and sparked some personal thought.
You say you wanted to question the notion of heroes, how they were made. And we have the feeling that the title is ironic, that there might be a question mark at the end.
Those who did not know what the subject of the film I was preparing was hearing only the title. And A hero refers to an archetype, a type of character. We would no doubt expect a character who, like the heroes, is extremely strong and determined, makes decisions quickly and goes forward, facing conflicts and obstacles to overcome.
Whereas, very quickly, we realize that our character is someone who, on the contrary, is rather passive and does not manage to make a personal decision before the very end of the film, and who rather lets himself be carried away in a sort of fragility, of the impossibility of acting in one’s own name. There is, in fact, a gap, a duality between the title and the character.
You said you’ve had this idea in your head for a long time, why did you come back to it recently? Did the fact that this making of the hero go through social networks play out, by allowing the story to be told through them?
No, social media was not a decisive trigger. On the contrary, they were absent initially. It is the story itself that has matured, with this journey of the character that I wanted to tell. And because this journey began with an ascent, with being highlighted and raised to the skies, it had to go through means, which is what social networks are in the film. But by no means an end.
But I took the time because the idea needed to mature. It’s a pretty classic delay between when the idea sprouts in your mind and seems worthy of interest, and when, at last, it starts to take shape and you feel able to make a story out of it. stands.
Is there a particular reason for the story to take place in Shiraz, where we expected in Tehran?
There are many reasons. There are first of all strictly personal reasons, but as far as the story itself is concerned, there is the fact that this crisis in which the main character is plunged is very quickly taken over by his entire community. , and the people around him who accompany him and experience this crisis with him.
However, this type of very united social fabric hardly exists any more, today, in a megalopolis like Tehran. It is rather in a provincial town, where the lifestyles are even more traditional that it is credible that the whole group is concerned by the crisis which the central character is going through. And then Shiraz is a city that evokes, in every Iranian, a certain nostalgia.
Because all the national heroes, all the mythical figures, all the past glory of Iran are associated with it. All these heroes left their mark in the city of Shiraz. She possesses in her something of a grandeur, of a heroism, which went with these ideas of the cult and the making of the hero, at the heart of the story.
This type of very united social fabric hardly exists any more in a megalopolis like Tehran.
As in many of your films, several things go through the eyes of children. Why is this point of view so important to you?
It is true that they are still present, but this film marks a change. Until now, they have mostly witnessed, often silent, conflicts between their parents, adults. They are emotionally involved, impacted by these conflicts, but remain witnesses, rather silent observers.
In A Hero, children take a more active role as they question these events. Where their questions, whether it be those of Rahim’s son or others, make them more active in this process. As if they themselves had acquired a certain maturity, and that they are no longer content to be psychologically impacted by these facts but also seek to understand them, to have a more rational relationship to reflect on the events they attend.
And in particular the questions of the son of the main character vis-à-vis his father and the fact that he has, or not, performed these acts. He wonders where the truth is, and why the video that so much is based on shouldn’t be released. There are also the questions of the other children: one of the last dialogues of the film is a question asked by a child, so they have this greater maturity, which allows them more to take things in hand.
Interview by Maximilien Pierrette in Paris on November 30, 2021