I am used to being awakened with a call for a recipe,but this mid-morning I was asked why my movie review from last night was not yet posted. Whoa, that felt good! Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater” felt good ,too. The Western spirit of freedom has never been so ironically portrayed. A trapped and tortured young man is more free than his captors. Thematically,this is a gem. Movies are for the senses as well as the mind and the initial frames of rose petals being pressed are a delight. I thought immediately of Patrick Suskind’s 1986 novel “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” where scent and the ancient art of making exquisite fragrances turn macabre.
Tension is built but beautifully through the words of the celebrated modern Iranian poet,Ahmad Shamlou. As a master of championing liberty, he writes” ..he knocks on your door in the middle of the night/his mission is to break your lamp/we must hide our lights in dark closets.” This verse presages our Tehran -born -Canadian Newsweek reporter’s visit to his mother and background info on the past imprisonment of this sister and father.
The acting is fine and Gael Garcia Bernal & his new found friend Dimitri Leonidas are easy to identify with in their banter and coaxing. A great line about the power of the video is dropped and the frustrated eyes of the interrogator,Kim Bodnia, are discernible and universal as the mark of one who is not getting the outcome he wishes. Shohreh Aghdashloo has the eyes of a mother who has suffered and knows she can not protect her loved ones from their own suffering. The middle imprisonment is a tad draggy,but maybe that is intentional. 118 days,much in solitary confinement,is well— long.
I wish I had read Maziar Bahari ‘s memoir”They Came For Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival” before I saw the film. Stewart seems to presume we know more background than we do, or he is trying to drive home the fact that we are fated by our circumstances and only the humanities of art,dance ,and yes,humor can get us through.
The middle did drag, though I loved the touching- the -wall -dance scenes and Bernal’s sly smile on the return trip when a seat mate puts on his night mask to bury the light. “What a strange time it is”, Stewart seems to be repeating. No agonized solitude here . Viewers of this film will have no “smiles cut from their lips”or ” songs from their hearts.” This reviewer likes Jon Stewart even more in this first attempt at film making!