The Story of a Rainy Night, Directed by Mehdi Fard Ghaderi
The Story of a Rainy Night is an Iranian film with universal themes. An elderly man lives on his own with his cat. It’s a rainy night with occasional thunderclaps and pouring rain outside the window out of which the old man gazes before offering his cat a bowl of milk. He puts music on his antique gramophone and takes a few short puffs from his wooden pipe. We see his face only briefly, because for the rest of the film his face will be hidden by the closely controlled cinematography, which places the camera consistently behind the man’s head, showing only his perspective as he walks around his home.
All of a sudden, the doorbell rings repeatedly, as if the person at the door is quite excited to get inside — the sound of a child ringing the doorbell of her grandfather. The old man checks himself in his mirror, making sure to look presentable before answering the door.
‘How good of you to come tonight’, he says, ‘I’d never thought you guys would show up’. It’s his daughter’s family. Their arrival is a surprise for the old man, who wasn’t expecting anyone.
‘Just our duty to you’, says his son-in-law.
‘Our overdue duty’, says his daughter.
‘Daddy, one cannot simply miss such an important night’, she says. It’s the old man’s birthday.
There are others coming, too, but the grandfather, having not expected anyone to visit, is incredulous. ‘Apparently we arrived earlier than everybody else, right?’
Eventually others join the family festivities, including the man’s other daughter along with her family as well as his son and his family. Grandpa goes into another room — the camera always following his view from behind — and reemerges with candies for his grandchildren. The men sit on the couch and talk business, and the women chat adjacent to them. The children, meanwhile, enjoy their candies. Details bring the characters to life: Azar is giving up her career for her home life, even though her father knows how hard she has worked to succeed; the men are engaged in various business enterprises. The arrival of so many people transforms the old man’s home — from virtual silence apart from the meowing of the cat to the excitement and commotion of a family reunion. His son brought a cake from the bakery, and someone has already ordered pizza for dinner.
There are strange elements to this party, however, which foreshadow the fact that things are not exactly as they seem. The old man tells his children that he frequently hears the ringing of his telephone, thinking that it is one of his children calling only to realise that he has only imagined it. His daughter Azar asks him how he has been feeling after the recent death of his wife. She’s worried about him. ‘Isn’t it hard?’ she asks. After all, the constant aloneness and seclusion is sure to lead to a life of ‘just dreaming and sailing in imagination’. And in various forms throughout the night, his children dismiss his disbelief that they actually showed up to celebrate his birthday. ‘What, you thought you were dreaming?’
The film is executed very well. The camerawork is great and so is the editing, which changes colours and effortlessly moves from scene to scene in one continuous shot. There are no cuts, only seamless editing with effective shifts. The structure creates the mood and foreshadows gradually. Storytelling here happens wordlessly at first, then with commotion — and finally in an upshot that will shock. ■
Runtime: 24 minutes
Genre: Dramatic Short
This film is the recipient of the 2016 Atlas Award for Best Cinematography.
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Mehdi Fard Ghaderi is an independent filmmaker in Iran.
This critical review was commissioned and sponsored by the filmmaker.
Featured Image: ‘The Story of a Rainy Night’, written and directed by Mehdi Fard Ghaderi.