August 07, 2008

Leila

Leila is an Iranian film about a human dilemma: how to live with infertility? Leila and her husband cannot have a child as Leila is infertile. The story concerns their battle with Leila's condition and their love. It concerns the way that these two young people relate to each other and their nobility in doing that is astonishing. Both of them seek to become a sacrafice for the other: Leila tries to get her husband to remarry, her husband tells her that he will not have children unless those children are hers. In short left to themselves these two strongly in love would live happily childless: but that is not the situation, that alternative is not open to them because of family and social pressures around them.

The film opens and closes with the same scene: a table laid with Iranian pudding and a large crowd of both sexes gathered around it. That pressure bears down on the pair throughout the film: they never have a moment's privacy and their feelings are ambushed by the self righteous relatives who surround them. In particular there is his mother. She constantly pressures Leila into forcing her husband to find a wife who can supply a child. She constantly reminds Leila that the virtue of women is in having sons to follow them. It is not a healthy perspective on life: and it is one created by the fact that through her son, she obtains the status that she cannot obtain any other way. This talented woman therefore drives her son's marriage to destruction through intimidating his bride because this is the way that she can maintain her role in society, her status.

Its a sad slight movie: there are some wonderful shots within it. But the major impression I left with was the tragedy of social pressure and the way that it forced Leila to leave her husband. At the end of the film Leila takes refuge in muteness: she retreats into the stronghold of herself, driven there by a society that values women by their wombs and relies on family pressure to suffocate the individual.

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