Posts Tagged Mohsen Makhmalbaf

Film & DVD Review: Gabbeh

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Gabbeh DVD cover

Click on image to buy this DVD

A Gabbeh is a type of Persian carpet. The pattern of the carpets are drawn from the experiences of the nomadic Gashgai tribe in southeast Iran who weave them. As Mohsen Makhmalbaf explains:–

Should they go across a desert, yellow will appear; should somebody be born a baby will appear and as for a love story, bright merry colours will be used.

The film uses the device of an image of a young girl who appears from the pattern of such a carpet. She tells her love story to the old woman washing the carpet. By her side her husband listens, and sometimes interjects.

Parallel to Gabbeh’s story is that of her uncle Sahayi who has returned to the countryside from the city where he worked as a schoolmaster. Back home he teaches the children of the tribe how to obtain from the flowers the wonderful colours which will help dye the wool of the gabbeh. This produces some of the most beautiful imagery in the film. When Sahayi points to the poppies in the field and draws back his hand it is a vivid red. When he points to the Sky, blue. The underlying ethos of the film is one of a people living in harmony with nature and drawing inspiration from it.

Reading the description of the film and noting the fact that it was in Persian I must confess I was a little daunted. But Gabbeh is not “arty” or boring, it is an unusual and thought-provoking film. Mohsen Makhmalbaf has tried to explain why Iranian films should draw audiences here in the West:–

These audiences are flooded with violent, tough films and are confronted with the same violence throughout their highly mechanical daily lives. That’s why the simplicity and the quietness one finds about these closely linked-with-nature Iranian films attract such audiences.


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