At the same time that Jafar Panahi was arrested, so was director Mohammad Rasoulof, who is the director of “Good Bye”. He too received a six year jail sentence, however has been released awaiting an appeal on his case, and what has he done whilst out of jail, that’s right, he has made “Good Bye”, a film attacking the current regime that put him in jail in the first time. It is a bold move indeed and although he had permission to make the film, the script he submitted had none of the controversial elements in it, that the final version of the film has, and as such the film had to be shot in a semi-clandestine nature. The film then had to be smuggled out of the country (on a usb stick, hidden in a cake, if you can believe) so that it could be screened at Cannes. With all the trouble that went into making this film and getting it screened, I wish I was able to say that I enjoyed it more than I actually did.
The film is about a young woman, Noura, trying to obtain a visa so that she can flee Iran, in the pursuit of a better life. Her husband is a writer for a newspaper and regularly wrote columns with opposing views of the current regime. Because of this he has had to flee, and does so to the desert, to avoid arrest. His wife, who was a lawyer, has had all of her cases taken from her, and has her house constantly raided. She has had enough and says to her friend “When you feel like a foreigner in your own country, you may as well leave and be a foreigner in a foreign country”. Months prior to when the film begins, Noura had met up with a man whose expertise it is to come up with plans to get people out of the country. The plan he has come up for Noura is complex and involves her becoming pregnant and then giving birth to the child while overseas. This part is the most important and because of it, the timing of everything must be spot on. However since the plan has been put into action, Noura is having second thoughts, as she has just found out that her child will be born with down syndrome. Is she leaving a hard life only to walk into a harder life? She is not sure if she wants to abort the baby (and thus the plan), but she needs to make up her mind quickly, because the baby is almost of an age when abortion becomes illegal.
This is quite a sad movie and equally depressing. The lead character does not smile at all throughout the whole film. While the MIFF guide describes the film as “a masterwork of sustained tension”, it was something that I just didn’t feel at all – I was never on the edge of my seat. What it does do well is that it gives you a feeling of what life must be like living under a repressive regime, as well as give you an indication of what Rasoulof went through himself. While “Good Bye” is not his own story, Rasoulof has included a number of scenarios that mirror his own. Probably the most disturbing scene is one when authorities trap Noura in an elevator and then proceed to ransack her house while looking for clues as to where her husband is.
The film has been directed in a very prosaic fashion, and because of that I never felt much suspense at all. You understand quickly that life is tough for Noura and that her civil rights could be encroached at any moment, but the way everything seems to move so slowly takes away from the immediacy of the story. Too much time is spent on things that lack any real importance, like Noura looking after her pet turtle (although I do get the metaphor). Although there are some very nice shots in the film, visually Rasoulof relies a lot on close-ups, and it actually fells less cinematic and more like television than it should. Although I have nothing to back this statement up, this could be due to the clandestine nature of shooting “Good Bye”, which obviously wouldn’t allow for long camera set-ups and bold camera moves.
I actually wonder if “Good Bye” is a victim of the genius of “A Separation”, because it was the first film I saw after that masterpiece, and the fact that both films are Iranian, I suppose I couldn’t help but compare the two. Therefore I wonder if I would have responded differently to “Good Bye” if I had seen it before “A Separation” and not after it. As it is, “Good Bye” is definitely not a terrible film, it has a lot to say about Iran today and the cost you pay when speaking out against the powers in charge. Considering the fate of director Mohammad Rasoulof, the ending to “Good Bye” is especially poignant.