Women Without Men, directed by Shirin Neshat, looks at the visually evocative and at times interspersing lives of four women in Iran in the early 1950s. It is a time of political unrest, as Prime Minister Mossadegh faced increasing opposition from US and British-backed movements. The film explores the women’s relationships with men and their understanding of sexuality, friendship, faith, and political involvement. It is based on Shahrnush Parsipur’s Women Without Men: A Novel of Modern Iran, first published in 1989.
The film is beautifully shot. Neshat’s background in photography is clearly apparent, as each scene could easily exist as a series of photographs. The colors of the film are rich. At times I was reminded of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, not only for the beautiful cinematography, but also for its similar (albeit far more understated) use of magical realism during a time of stark political change. I found myself wondering about how both films use female protagonists and the setting of a natural space to drive their narrative, leaving male characters in the background of their experience.