The Devil does not exist is divided into 4 stories, weaving an uncompromising portrait of Iranian society. Focus on this shocking film which won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale 2020.
Golden Bear at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival, The Devil Doesn’t Exist takes us to Iran, nowadays. Heshmat is an exemplary husband and father but no one knows where he goes every morning. Pouya, a young conscript, cannot bring himself to kill a man as he is ordered to do.
Javad, who has come to ask his beloved in marriage, is suddenly trapped in a difficult dilemma. Bharam, a doctor banned from practicing, has finally decided to reveal to his niece the secret of a lifetime. These four stories are inexorably linked. In a despotic regime where the death penalty still exists, men and women fight to assert their freedom.
A COMMITTED FILMMAKER
This shocking feature film is directed by Mohammad Rasoulof, threatened with being thrown in prison in his country for his opinions and his stand against the government. For this project, the filmmaker had to be smart and elbows to avoid the censorship scissors.
“When I returned to Iran after the presentation at foreign festivals of my previous film, A Man of Integrity, I was beset by so many difficulties that I was unable to project myself into another film. This very destabilizing situation has lasted two years during which I tried to find a solution to shoot again. I realized that the best way to escape censorship would be to officially make “short films”, explains the director.
Indeed, in Iran, the shorter a shoot, the less the censorship is interested in it so the risk of getting caught is much lower.
“So I started to think about several stories. Their common theme quickly imposed itself on me: the way in which one takes responsibility for one’s actions in a totalitarian context. Resisting totalitarian injunctions is a seductive idea, but it has to do with it. a cost. This leads to the renunciation of many aspects of life and sometimes the disapproval of your fellow human beings. I wanted to create characters proud to have had the strength to disobey, who assume the consequences. they lost, they remain in conformity with their own moral requirement “, Mohammad Rasoulof analysis.
4 SHORT FOR A LONG
The latter therefore decided to divide The Devil does not exist in 4 stories, making believe in the staging of short films. He then edited these 4 stories to make only one of 2 hours and 30 minutes. The first idea is when he returns to Iran.
“To my surprise, everyone I passed would ask me why I had come back. What had I done that was so bad? I had made a film about corruption, I had told a story. expected me to submit to repression, to flee because I had disobeyed. The reflection on this situation inspired me the second episode: the story of a young man whose future seems everything traced, but which, due to a refusal during his military service, sees his life turn into the unknown “, explains the dissident filmmaker.
Thus, Rasoulof questions our relationship to freedom through the functioning of totalitarianism, which creeps slyly into certain societies. “It is one of the operating modes of a totalitarian regime to bring about a standardization of society by depriving individuals of their free will, of their right to question, by defining and imposing a single law. Go to the against this hegemony leads to an outcry aroused by fear. Prudence then becomes a criterion of intelligence. Anyone who chooses to overcome his fear in order to oppose the dominant law is therefore automatically marginalized “, he analyzes.
To succeed in putting the feature film in a box, Mohammad Rasoulof’s team defied the prohibitions, often turning underground. Participation in this film was indeed for each member an act of disobedience to censorship. “With my production partners, Kaveh Farnam and Farzad Pak, we gradually formed a united and accomplice team around this conviction. But the subject of the film goes beyond the Iranian context. The resistance to authority and the questioning of obedience are based on self-esteem, a universal notion “, underlines the director.
The Devil does not exist, like many feature films, has had some setbacks because of the Covid-19 crisis. Thus, this film, which won the Golden Bear at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival, has seen its release postponed several times. This health crisis also had an impact on Mohammad Rasoulof’s personal situation. As soon as his film won an award at the Berlinale, the Iranian judiciary decided to implement his one-year prison sentence.
“Due to the increased risk of the virus spreading in prisons and on the advice of my lawyer, I did not report to the authorities. To date, they have not made my arrest. no certainty about the future and do not know how long this state can last. During this indefinite period, I collaborate with associations to come to the aid of precarious patients and I try as much as possible to take advantage of this reprieve to enjoy nature “, concludes the director.
The latter was convicted of assembly and connivance against national security and of propaganda against the regime. He was sentenced in July 2019 to one year in prison, followed by a two-year ban on leaving the country and a ban on engaging in any social and political activity.