Tabi’at-e Bijan (Still Life). 1974. Iran. Written and directed by Sohrab Shahid Saless. With Zadour Bonyadi, Mohammed Kani, Hedayatollah Navid. DCP courtesy Cinematek, Royal Film Archive of Belgium. In Persian; English, French, and Dutch subtitles. 93 min.
An elderly railway signalman is unable to understand the meaning of “retirement” when he is handed over his retirement letter. Still Life, the film that shook Iranian cinema to its core and won the Silver Bear at the Berlinale, is an unforgettable, masterfully paced exercise in stillness and loneliness that doesn’t shrink from depicting exploitative tendencies within contemporary Iranian society. Saless uses the inarticulacy of his protagonist as an aesthetic strategy and finds poetry in seemingly dead moments. Made only in 11 days and shot with the painterly vision of the cinematographer Houshang Baharlou, this landmark work pushed the boundaries of cinema like no other Iranian film of the 1970s.