TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: Nawbat-i asheqi (Love’s Turn), a 1990 film by Makhmalbaf, provoked an intense public debate about movie morality, specifically women’s control of their own sexuality. Screened at the ninth annual Fajr Film Festival in Tehran, Love’s Turn drew a shocked response from many conservative members of the audience who had been among Makhmalbaf’s staunchest supporters. Love’s Turn was attacked for its presentation of a female character who pursues an extramarital affair. But Makhmalbaf was guilty of a more serious offense than showing sexuality: he dared to advocate moral relativism. It is an indication of the volatile nature of art in the Islamic Republic that the controversy surrounding this film drew the Parliament, the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance, the Press, and the filmmakers themselves into heated discussions about the government regulation of art, film in particular.1 The Farabi Foundation which funds Iranian films is an official government organization, so the appearance of a film like Love’s Turn caused a clamor not only because Makhmalbaf was out of line, but because its production was evidence that the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and the Farabi Foundation had relaxed their control of artistic content.
Mohammed Khatami-the moderate elected President of Iran in 1998– headed the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance at that time and did his best to justify the screening of Makhmalbaf’s films. However, the Ministry was eventually pressured to ban Love’s Turn; not surprisingly, Khatami was not reappointed. The controversy surrounding Love’s Turn suffices to show both the distance Makhmalbaf has traversed from where he began and the fickle nature of the Iranian cultural establishment.
Istanbul Train, Daytime.
Gazal steps down from the train. She has a flower in her hand. She leaves the station.
The old man enters the park. He puts down his empty cage and searches the branches for a bird whose pleasing song has filled the trees in the park. For a moment he takes his headphones off; the sound leaves the picture. He connects the wire with two leads to his headphones to the recorder and listens to the sound of the bird from his recorder. Then the sound of the tape recorder fills the air. After a moment’s silence, a bird answers the call. The old man is elated. He puts the cage on the bench and pours a little birdseed along a path that ends up inside the cage. Then with his hands he imitates a bird that goes inside the cage by following the seed. The door closes and catches his hand. He is certain his plan will be a success. He puts a microphone with a thin wire beside the cage, and he moves away and hides between the trees. A few minutes pass while he’s waiting, until little by little, the sound of a bird that is pecking at birdseed can be heard in the headphones. The sound of something falling in the cage follows. The old man gets to the cage quickly. A crow has fallen into the trap. He opens the cage door and shoos the crow then he pours out more birdseed from his pocket. He pours it in such a way that the bird will be forced to follow the seed into the center of the cage. The beautiful sound of a bird that has mesmerized the old man still fills the air. A fair-haired bootblack sits down on the bench and looks around. The cage catches his attention. Whichever direction he turns his head, no one can be seen. The old man has no choice but to come out from behind the tree where he has been lying in wait and wave his hand so that the young fair-haired man will move from in front of the cage. But the fair-haired man is looking somewhere else. The young fair-haired man’s look leads to Gazal, a beautiful woman whose head and shoulders are covered by a scarf, and who comes up and sits by the cage. The old man recognizes the woman and hides himself. Now the cage is between the fair-haired man and Gazal. Gazal looks around; she doesn’t see anything. The old man takes special pleasure in how well he has hidden himself and laughs sweetly. Gazal and the fair-haired shoe-shiner also laugh. Gazal gives the fair-haired man the flower. The old man, whose curiosity has been piqued, turns up the volume on his mike. The sound of the fair-haired man’s voice can be heard in the old man’s headphones.
Fair-haired man: Every shoe I shine I think of your foot.
He sits down in front of Gazal and shines her shoes. Gazal wants to stop him, but the fair-haired man shines her shoes quickly. From close-up, we see the strain in the fair-haired man’s face. The old man continues to play with the volume of his headphones so that he will hear every little sound.
Gazal: I wish you had done your military service. I wish you were a taxi driver, then my mother would have given you my hand.
Now the shoeshine man is exerting maximum effort to shine Gazal’s shoes. He even cleans the sole of her shoe with his hand. The old man is astonished. Gazal sits down on the ground too and takes the shoe-polish brush from the fair-haired man’s hand and shines his shoes. The old man is completely frustrated.
Taxi. In the Street. Nighttime.
The taxi is empty. The dark haired man is driving the cab. A woman raises her arm. The taxi stops and the woman gets in.
The tape deck in the taxi plays heartrending music that sounds like someone mourning. The taxi has started moving. The dark haired man, “Gazal’s husband” has his wife’s picture pasted to the steering wheel so that with each turn, Gazal’s picture spins too.
Woman Passenger: I’m a woman alone. You don’t have any place where I could stay with you tonight do you?
The dark haired man turns, looks at the woman, brakes, and buys a flower from the flower vendor in the street and takes off. The woman is under the impression that the dark haired man has bought the flower for her and stretches her hand out to take it, but the dark haired man doesn’t pay any attention.
Woman Passenger: Are you alone like me?
Dark haired man: (He points to Gazal’s picture.) My wife is prettier/more attractive than you. I was in love with her for two years. I took out a loan and bought this taxi so I could marry her. I’m not alone; go think up something else for yourself.
Woman: I’m just alone. I didn’t mean anything. I had a husband once, but he didn’t remain faithful to me. I was very much in love with him. Will you take me to meet your wife?
The dark haired man gets out and opens the backdoor of the car. He takes out a piece of cloth from the dashboard and wraps it around his hand and pulls the woman out.
Dark haired man: I promised my wife that my hand would never touch a woman other than her.
The lone woman has been abandoned on the street beside a dock and the taxi drives away.
In front of the house, and inside Gazal’s house, Continued.
The taxi parks in front of the house and the dark haired man goes inside singing and dancing. It’s a small house. The woman is not at home. The dark haired man calls her and doesn’t hear a response. Then he puts the flower in a container and changes his clothes, checks himself out in the mirror and runs a hand over his hair. Gazal’s shoes, shiny and polished, are in front of the mirror. All of a sudden, the dark haired man notices something in the mirror. First, he stares at the mirror. Then he turns around and looks in front of the mirror. Gazal is sitting in the corner, asleep. The dark haired man picks up the flower, and gently singing, he goes toward her and holds the flower in front of her nose. Gazal opens her eyes.
The Old Man’s House, Same Time.
Next to the empty cage, there is another cage where a canary is imprisoned. The old man is sitting behind a table that is full of electrical equipment, wires, and all kinds of junk. The headphones are in his ears, and he hears the sound of the fair-haired man and Gazal. Then he rewinds the tape and listens to it over again.
The Park, Next Day.
The cage is to the side. The old man attaches the microphone and wire to the park bench. But this time he intends to hide and listen to the conversation of those. Again the fair-haired shoe-shiner arrives first, then Gazal, and they sit down on the bench facing the one they sat on yesterday. The old man can’t hear their voices. No matter how high he turns up the volume on his headphones, the sound of that beautiful bird he is trying to capture gets louder. Gazal gives the flower that the dark haired man brought for her last night to the fair-haired man. Then they get up and walk past the old man. The old man hears Gazal’s voice as she passes by him.
Gazal: Today I have to leave early. Tomorrow come to the same place and we’ll have lunch together.
With his cage and tape recorder, the old man follows them like a shadow.
The Railroad Tracks, Day and Night.
Gazal arrives at the train tracks that extend in the direction of a group of apartments where she lives. The fair-haired man stands there, worried, and watches Gazal leaving. His eyes are full of longing. The old man walks behind Gazal and follows the train tracks to her house. Gazal goes into the house, and the old man waits until night falls and the dark haired man’s taxi arrives. The old man steps forward. From a distance we see him exchanging pleasantries with the dark haired man and going toward the house.
Old Man: How should I say it . . . I’m getting on in years. Every so often I’ve regretted not saying something at the right time. You break your back from morning to night to make your wife happy . . . not to suggest that she’s a bad person; but on days when you’re not around, what’s she doing alone with a strange man in that park?
Silence. The dark haired man plays with the flower in his hand. Then he tries to control himself.
Dark haired man: Are you talking about my wife?
Old Man: So it’s you who buy these flowers for her?
Then, it seems as though he regrets what he’s said and he leaves. The dark haired man follows him with his eyes. A moment later he goes into the house but unlike the night before he does not sing. He turns the key slowly and enters the house without warning and without a sound.
Gazal’s House, Continued.
The sound of Gazal singing comes from the shower, and steam comes from under the door. The song that Gazal sings goes something like this “I keep your love like a secret in my heart” “Don’t cry, my heart can’t bear your crying” “Take my heart, it’s yours, if my heart stay with me, I’ll die.”
Hesitating, the dark haired man goes looking for his wife’s handbag. Except for a white handkerchief that has a red flower embroidered on it he doesn’t find anything. The dark haired man stands in front of the mirror and looks at his own stricken image. The sound of Gazal singing can still be heard.
Street and Taxi, The Next Day.
Gazal goes out of the house with a basket that has in it the necessary items for preparing food. The dark haired man is in the taxi following a short distance behind her. Gazal tries to hail a cab. The dark haired man can’t take any more, he puts the taxi in gear, drives up and brakes in front of Gazal. First, Gazal says the name of the place she wants to go. When she sees her husband, she is taken aback but has no choice but to get in the taxi.
Dark haired man: Where are you going?
Gazal: I want to go shopping.
Dark haired man: Why don’t you tell me when you need something so I can buy it?
Gazal: Well . . . It’s just that I get bored at home.
He drops Gazal off somewhere.
Dark haired man: Go home quickly.
Gazal waves to him and leaves. The taxi turns around and stops somewhere on the next street over at the corner, in a no parking zone. He abandons the taxi and walks in the direction Gazal has gone.
Gazal takes one fish from among the fish and one bunch of greens from the pile, gets one loaf of bread from the bakery, gets in a carriage and disappears around the turn. The dark haired man runs after the carriage keeping a distance.
Forest, Sea, Continued.
With her hands and feet, Gazal breaks the firewood she’s gathered and lights it with the fire she’s started. She puts the skillet on rocks that form a stove, and she takes the fish out of her basket and throws it in the pan. The fair-haired man walks up. He hangs his bootblack wares from the tree and moves closer. His eyes turn away from Gazal and he sees the fish and the pan. Agitated, he runs and pulls the fish out of the pan.
Fair-haired man: Didn’t you consider that this fish might be in love too? [Gazal starts laughing at what he’s said. But the fair-haired man is dead serious and moves away.] Maybe someone is waiting for him in the sea.
He runs toward the sea. Gazal runs after him. Both of them run in and out of the trees. The fair-haired man’s neck scarf catches on a branch and falls. Gazal picks it up and catches up to the fair-haired man. The fair-haired man has reached the sea. He plunges both of his hands into the seawater, and the fish is in a pool formed by his hands. Now, little by little, it comes to life and moves, and before Gazal’s eyes it swims off into the depths of the sea.
Fair-haired man: Love revived it.
Gazal is stunned by what’s happened.
Fair-haired man: (He puts his feet in the water) This sea made me a lover. There was a time I sat at the edge of the sea; I was in love, but had no beloved. Until I saw you.
Gazal puts his scarf on his shoulders.
Gazal: Now you don’t have a beloved either, because you’ve lost me.
She takes off, running hard. The fair-haired man follows her at a relaxed pace. The dark haired man is eyeing them from a distance.
The Carriage Circle and the Winding Paths of the Forest, Continued.
Gazal gets on a carriage and quickly moves off. The fair-haired man has to run after her and little by little he manages to run alongside the carriage. The horses run, straining under the whip of the carriage driver. The fair-haired man climbs on too, takes off his neck scarf and hangs it outside the frame. A moment passes, then Gazal’s hand puts her scarf into the fair-haired man’s frame. The fair-haired man puts her scarf on his head. In the next scene, Gazal has his neck scarf on her head and only her eyes are showing. The horses run. The carriage driver cracks the whip. The wind takes Gazal’s scarf from his neck, and it gets caught on a branch. The sounds of Gazal screaming and the fair-haired man shouting can be heard. From a distance, we see that the fair-haired man’s neck scarf, too, has been picked up and carried by the wind until it falls on Gazal’s scarf. The horses are being beaten by the whip and they run. The dark haired man appears and runs after the carriage. The fair-haired man’s face is covered with sweat. Horses, horses, horses. Whip, whip, whip. Gazal, fair-haired man, Gazal. The play of the two scarves that the wind has intertwined. The dark haired man is still running after the carriage with a tire tool in his hand. He hits the fair-haired man and Gazal in the head. Gazal is screaming. The fair-haired man is shouting. The dark haired man is shouting. The carriage driver’s whip. The faces of the horses that are running and pulling the carriage after them toward the sea.
Street and Taxi, A Few Minutes Later.
The dark haired man has lifted the fair-haired man onto his back. He carries him to the taxi and throws him on the back seat. Then he sits behind the wheel. Gazal is unconscious in the front seat. The taxi starts moving. The dark haired man is worried about Gazal. He calls out to her and says how devoted he is to her. But Gazal is unconscious, and the dark haired man drives hurriedly. The fair-haired man stirs and is about to wake when the dark haired man notices and brakes. With the tire tool that he pulls from under the dashboard he hits the fair-haired man in the head again. The taxi, honking its horn, crosses several streets going fast in the wrong direction.
The Hospital, Nighttime. Carriage, Daytime.
The old man walks down the hall and goes into a room where Gazal is lying in bed. As the old man enters, Gazal looks at him. The old man moves closer, and embarrassed, he hands the fair-haired man’s neck scarf to Gazal.
Old Man: Forgive me, I didn’t consider that it would come to this.
Gazal takes the scarf. She smells it. Then she throws it up in the air. Brief image of the scarf being blown from the carriage by the wind.
A trial is underway. The judge and court officials are in their places. The old man and Gazal’s mother are in the place reserved for the observers.
Dark haired man: I was a good driver. I always paid my fines on time. I paid my taxes. I was faithful to my wife. My wife was my whole life. When she betrayed me, there was no longer any reason to be a peaceful person. I never imagined that one day I would be a murderer.
Judge: (Holding the taxi tire jack in his hand as the murder weapon) You’ve been sentenced to death. What do you have to say in your defense?
Dark haired man: I was defending my honor. If I hadn’t done something, I would never have forgiven myself. I did my duty. I’m satisfied. I feel like I’ve been lucky.
Judge: But me personally, I’m not satisfied. A judge gets no benefit from an execution. It’s society that benefits. However, the court defends individuals’ right to life. No one other that the law has the right to take someone’s life . . . how I wish I could let you go. I understand your situation, but my hands are tied. However, because you turned yourself in, you can choose how to die.
Dark haired man: Throw me into the sea. Because my grandmother said anyone who dies in the sea will be born into this world one more time.
Gazal’s mother: (Standing up from her chair) Don’t kill my son-in-law. I’m well-pleased with him. He made a good life for my daughter.
The judge pounds on the desk to silence Gazal’s mother.
Judge: Do you have anything else to say?
Dark haired man: Actually yes, one thing bothers me. I made a good life for my wife. I provided her everything life has to offer. Why did she go fall in love with a shoe-shiner. What does a shoe-shiner have that a taxi driver doesn’t? Do you think I was uglier than him?
Sea, Ship, Sunset.
A ship sails on the sea. Several sailors bring the dark haired man onto the ship’s deck. With a rope, one of them raises a flag that has the scales of justice drawn on it. Grabbing the dark haired man by the arms and legs, they put him into a casket. They shut the casket lid. But it appears that one of them doesn’t latch the lid right. The sailor’s captain gives the order, and the casket is tossed into the sea.
The camera moves down the hospital corridor. People are coming and going. We hear the song Gazal was singing as it plays on the radio. The camera arrives at the room where Gazal is lying in bed. Gazal’s mother is sitting beside her. Gazal is silent, and she stares into her mother’s eyes. Several minutes pass in silence.
Gazal: Mother, why did you force me to marry someone I didn’t love.
Gazal’s mother: My daughter, you still don’t understand life; life is more than just love. I’ve experienced this three times.
The camera is in the corridor again at the same place that it started from before. The same song is still playing. There is no one coming and going into the hall. When the camera gets to the room, Gazal is alone. She gets up. She empties a bottle of pills into her hand and puts them into her mouth, several at a time, and swallows them with water. Then she takes her clothes out of the dresser and puts them on. Quietly she steps into the hall, looks around and leaves the room.
Market, Sea, Continued.
Gazal goes to the market. She buys a fish. She goes to the edge of the sea. She puts the fish into a pool she has fashioned with her hands. But no matter how long she waits, the fish doesn’t revive. She has no choice but to let it go and leave.
Carriage Circle and Forest, Daytime.
Gazal arrives at the carriage circle. Several children around are playing musical instruments. She gets a carriage and has the children get up beside her. The carriage drives off. Now the children are playing and the carriage is moving. Little by little, Gazal starts to feel sick. She grabs her stomach and curls up in pain. The children play their instruments until they arrive at the area where Gazal had made the stove the time before. She gets down and sits beside the cold stove. Then she lights it and stares at the carriage standing there and the children who are playing instruments. The children play. Gradually, Gazal’s condition worsens. She takes what money she has out of her purse and divides it between the carriage-driver and the children and motions for them to leave. The children climb on the carriage and move away, still playing. Gazal who is near death, looks at the carriage that is carrying the music away. Her eyes appear motionless.
The old man lays out his equipment with special care. He attaches a small microphone to the cage and connects the wire to the headphones and hides between the trees. The sound of a bird can be heard from the small recorder the old man has with him, and a sound just like it answers back from among the trees.
Gazal arrives riding on the train. Vendors are busy selling their wares. A fortune-teller sells paper fortunes. The old woman sitting across from Gazal picks out a piece of paper and hands it to the fortuneteller.
Old Woman: I can’t read, you read it for me.
Fortune-Teller: I can’t read either.
Old Woman: [Facing Gazal] Miss, can you read?
Gazal doesn’t pay any attention. A young man who is holding onto the pole steps forward and takes the fortune from the old woman’s hand to read it.
Young Man: (from the fortune) I know a sad little fairy who lives in the ocean. And ever so softly Plays her heart into a magic flute A sad little fairy Who dies with one kiss each night To be reborn with one kiss at dawn.2 . . .
The train stops. Gazal stands up and gets off.
Gazal is coming. She looks around and walks toward a bench that has a cage on it. She sits down quietly and talks to someone else who is sitting on the bench and whom we haven’t yet seen. Like the first time, the old man is curious and plays with the volume of his headphones. At first, he doesn’t hear their voices. Then he finds a piece of wire that has been disconnected, attaches it, and sound comes through.
Gazal: I wish you had gone into the army. I wish you were a taxi driver. Then my mother would have given you my hand.
A Man’s Voice: You see what happiness depends on! Having a taxi! Going into the army.
We can see by the old man’s face that they’ve gotten up from their places and are passing by him. We see them after their backs are to the old man. The man is the dark haired man. But it’s still not entirely clear. The old man sets out after them.
The Railroad Tracks in front of Gazal’s House, Continued.
Gazal goes in the direction of her house, and the dark haired man’s longing look follows Gazal down the tracks. Gazal goes into the house. From in front of the house, the old man looks at the dark haired man who is standing on the railroad tracks. Gazal’s husband’s taxi drives up-this time the fair-haired man is driving. The old man goes forward and helps the fair-haired man park. The fair-haired man gets out. With his hand, the old man points to the dark haired man standing on the rails.
Old Man: Do you know that man?
Fair-haired man: What man?
The dark haired man moves further down the tracks; we see his back.
Old Man: That man who is walking away.
Fair-haired man: Which one?
Old Man: I thought perhaps he’s related to your wife. You see, I go the park looking for a mate for my canary. But your wife distracts me. For some time now, I’ve seen her with this man . . . never mind, I’m afraid things will get ugly.
Fair-haired man: Are you talking about my wife?
Old Man: I’m talking about my canary. It had a mate that died. Then one day in the park it just happened that I heard the sound of a canary. I went to catch it so my canary won’t be alone anymore. Since its mate died it doesn’t sing anymore. You’re tired and you’d better go home.
And he leaves. The fair-haired man continues to stand there and watches him walk away. When he’s ready to go inside, he picks up the flower he has bought from inside the car.
Gazal’s House, Daytime.
The fair-haired man enters the house. Gazal is cooking in the kitchen and singing the same song that she sang in the shower: “I keep your love like a secret in my heart. . . .” The fair-haired man opens the kitchen door. Gazal sees him. She says hello and continues cooking. The fair-haired man stands by the kitchen with the flower in his hand.
Fair-haired man: Should we go to your mother’s house tonight?
Gazal: What for! We were just at my mother’s house.
Fair-haired man: You know how fond I am of your mother. I have your mother to thank for you.
Gazal continues her singing. The fair-haired man hums along. Gazal breaks off the song and pours a bowl of water in the frying pan that sizzles loudly. She crosses in front of the fair-haired man without looking at him, goes into the room and shuts the door. The fair-haired man stands outside the door to the room that Gazal is in and calls her several times. He doesn’t hear any answer.
The dark haired man is a vendor on the train. He pushes his juicer into the heart of the sweet lemons. He squeezes the lemons with his hand and the lemon juice pours into the glass-He gives it to the customers.
Taxi and Train, Continued.
Gazal walks down the street. The fair-haired man follows her in a taxi. Gazal holds the flower that the fair-haired man bought for her last night. She gets on the train. The fair-haired man abandons the taxi and goes after Gazal, He gets on the train at the last minute. Gazal is sitting on a bench. The fair-haired man is beside her. Startled, Gazal looks at him.
Gazal: Where were you?
Fair-haired man: Where are you going?
Gazal: I’m going shopping.
Fair-haired man: Why don’t you tell me when you need something so I can buy it?
Gazal: I get bored in the house alone.
The dark haired man, who has noticed them, is walking through the train and hawking his lemon juice. But his eye is only on Gazal. The hands of one or two customers stretch out toward him to buy lemon juice; he’s so absorbed he doesn’t see them. The fair-haired man notices him. He calls to him. The dark haired man goes toward him. He buries the juicer in the heart of the lemon and squeezes with his hand. His eyes rest on Gazal. Fearing her husband, Gazal has turned her face toward the window. The glass of lemon juice is in the fair-haired man’s hand. The dark haired man keeps on making juice and emptying it into the glass until the glass overflows.
Park, The Next Day.
The old man is hunting for a bird that sings at the top of the trees. The dark haired man walks up and sits by the cage. The old man hides himself and turns on his tape recorder. Gazal also arrives and sits down beside him. The old man is ready to listen to their conversation when he sees the fair-haired man between the trees-he’s gotten out of his taxi. The tire tool is in his hand and he’s going toward them. The old man hides himself. The sound of an instrument which has been playing since the beginning of the scene grows louder. So much louder that he has difficulty hearing the dark haired man and Gazal’s conversation. The sound of the instrument and the children who are playing it comes nearer. The old man turns up his headphone volume, but the sound of the musical instruments prevents him from hearing anything. Now the children are playing right in front of the old man. And they are asking for money. The old man tries to drive the children away, but they stubbornly continue to play. The fair-haired man approaches Gazal and the dark haired man. The old man angrily pulls the headphones off his ears. The sound of the music and background noise are cut off. The fair-haired man attacks the dark haired man. The children continue soundlessly playing. Gazal wants to stop the fair-haired man’s attack on the dark haired man, gets hit herself and falls flat on the ground. The old man puts back on his headphones. The loud sound of the music returns to the scene. The jack falls into the hands of the dark haired man. With several blows, he knocks the fair-haired man off his feet and flees.
The judge and court officials are in their places. The old man and Gazal’s mother are seated among the observers.
Judge: You’ve been sentenced to die. The court would like to hear your final statement.
Dark haired man: I’m content. I will be killed for love.
Judge: But the court is not pleased. The court doesn’t derive any benefit form someone’s execution. It is society that benefits. The court protects people’s honor. No one has the right to take someone’s life except for the law. Personally, I would really like to help you.
Gazal’s Mother: [Standing] He has to pay for what he’s done. How many times he came to ask for my daughter’s hand in marriage. I told him, you’ll ruin her life. My daughter’s husband provided everything for her. My daughter lacked for nothing. This murderer took away my daughter’s happiness.
The judge pounds on the table with his gavel so that Gazal’s mother will be quiet.
Judge: Do you have any final requests?
Dark haired man: I have no one but God to say last words to. I want to tell him (he looks at the sky), God, I enjoyed this life so much, if you want to bring me into this world one more time bring me just like this again.
Judge: You mean you don’t regret what you did?
Dark haired man: Before I fell in love, life was very difficult, I regret that except for this time, the rest of my life I was not in love, and I beg God’s forgiveness.
Judge: I feel sorry for you. But I cannot let you go free. The law has left you no escape. But you can decide how you will die. You just can’t ask that we throw you into the sea because there is a provision that prevents us from doing that.
Dark haired man: Then I want to die under that very tree where I loved. Under that tree where I was with my beloved.
Judge: For me one question remains, that woman’s husband was more handsome than you. He had a taxi. You are uglier than he and you’re a vendor. Why did she prefer you?
Dark haired man: I don’t know either. But if you could, bring her in and ask her so I can see her one more time.
Judge: (He pounds on the table.) This court is adjourned.
They put the dark haired man on the carriage. Two other carriages escort him. When they arrive at the familiar tree, they have him step down. His hands are tied behind him. They throw the noose around his neck. The carriage-driver takes the reins off the horses’ necks. When the execution order is given, a hand pulls the rope. The horses run free to the sea.
The camera moves down the hospital corridor. People can be seen coming and going. When the camera gets to the room where Gazal is lying in bed, first the old man and then Gazal’s mother leaves the room. Gazal is left alone. Gazal waits a minute, gets up, and looks around hopelessly until a thought occurs to her. She goes toward a medicine bottle. She opens the lid and turns the bottle upside down in her hand. There are no pills in it; she searches for some other solution.
Again, the camera moves toward the room Gazal is in. The hall is empty and ever so softly the song Gazal was singing in the kitchen plays on the radio. When the camera gets to the room, Gazal has fallen onto the floor.
The old man is between the trees. He hears the sound of something falling into the cage. He goes to the cage. A canary has fallen in the trap.
Gazal is sitting on the seat. The fair-haired man bootblack comes along and sits down beside Gazal. He has his shoe-shining supplies with him.
Gazal: Do you see that old man? (The fair-haired man looks.) He’s been following us for a long time. He’s spoken to my husband twice. Let’s get out of this place.
They stand up and go to the deck of the ferryboat. The old man who has the canary cage with him gets to the deck after a minute. Gazal and the fair-haired man are standing by the wall of the ship talking to one another. Little by little, the old man makes his way toward them. When he sees that they have noticed him, he steps closer.
Old Man: I want my shoes shined.
The fair-haired man asks him to sit on a chair. He takes off his shoes and spreads a cloth beneath the old man’s feet and takes the shoes away.
Fair-haired man: I’ll bring them right back. First I have to clean them.
He goes into the covered section of the ship. At the last minute, he motions to Gazal to follow him. She does. The old man turns and looks Gazal over. The ship anchors. Gazal and the fair-haired man get off with the other passengers. The old man is still waiting.
Gazal’s House, Nighttime.
The doorbell rings. Gazal comes out of the kitchen and opens the door. The old man is behind the door. Gazal doesn’t know what to say. The old man gazes at her, sizing her up. Gazal closes the door. Immediately, the old man rings the doorbell. Gazal remains standing with her back against the wall. The old man rings the doorbell over and over again, until Gazal is forced to open the door. Still the old man doesn’t say anything.
Gazal: What do you want?
Old Man: My shoes.
Gazal: Why are you always following me?
Old Man: It’s a secret.
Gazal: I don’t have your shoes.
Gazal shuts the door. The old man rings the bell again.
Gazal stands helplessly with her back to the wall. The doorbell rings nonstop, then fists pound on the door.
Gazal moves away from the door and picks up a pair of her husband’s shoes from the corner of the house. She opens the door, tosses the shoes out, and shuts the door. The old man puts on the shoes. They fit. He takes them off again and rings the doorbell. The door doesn’t open. He rings over and over again. The door opens and Gazal looks through the crack, frightened and angry.
Old Man: These shoes are newer than mine. How can you pull the wool over your husband’s eyes this way?
Gazal: Would you please go. I don’t want my husband to know anything.
The old man puts on the shoes and leaves.
In Front of Gazal’s House, A Minute Later.
The dark haired man’s taxi drives up. The tape player is blaring. The old man walks up and before the dark haired man gets out, he knocks on the window. The dark haired man rolls down the window.
Old Man: My good man, when do you plan to stop your wife. Seven times, with my own eyes, I’ve seen her romancing with a strange man in the park.
Dark haired man: My wife?
Old Man: If you don’t believe me, listen to their voices.
He takes the recorder from his pocket, takes a cassette tape out and hands it to the dark haired man. The dark haired man looks at the tape with trepidation. Then, having taken the cassette from his tape deck, he puts in the new tape. The sound of a bird comes out.
Old Man: It’s further along.
The dark haired man fast-forwards the tape, but still the sound of the bird comes out.
Old Man: I taped their voices myself, it must be the other side of the tape.
The dark haired man flips the tape over. No matter what he does, still the sound of the bird comes out.
Old Man: You can come with me to the park and see them.
Gazal’s House, Continued.
The dark haired man enters the house. He has the flower that he picked for Gazal in his hand. Gazal is in the kitchen. She’s humming a song. The dark haired man stands in front of the door. He looks at Gazal. Gazal notices that he’s looking at her strangely. She becomes frightened. She looks away, but she can’t help herself and she looks at him again. The dark haired man stares angrily at Gazal and plucks the flower petals one by one and throws then on the ground. Then slowly he unfastens his belt from around his waist. He wraps it around his hand and attacks Gazal. Gazal screams and turns to him for protection. The dark haired man keeps beating her. Gazal runs out of the kitchen. The camera continues to face the kitchen. The dark haired man goes after Gazal. The sound whipping and Gazal’s screams and things moving around in the house can be heard. The food on the stove is scorched on the bottom and smoking.
Gazal is covered with blood and laid out in the back of the taxi. The dark haired man is driving. He turns and looks at Gazal with disgust. He pulls off the picture he had stuck to the steering wheel and rips it with his teeth.
A nurse is bandaging Gazal. The dark haired man watches.
Nurse: What happened:
Gazal is silent.
Dark haired man: Her husband beat her.
Dark haired man: Because he loves her so much.
Gazal’s House, An Hour Later.
Gazal has been bandaged up, and she returns with the dark haired man to the house. Gazal sits silently in a corner. The dark haired man is sitting somewhere else. Then he stands up. He takes off his belt and goes after Gazal. Gazal screams and runs away. The camera follows them in the mirror. Sometimes we see them run after each other in front of the mirror and sometimes we don’t see them. Something hits the mirror and it breaks. Now we hear sounds but nothing can be seen in the broken mirror.
The Taxi, A Minute Later.
Her bandages now soaked with blood, Gazal is laid out on the backseat and the dark haired man is driving, the song, “I keep your love like a secret in my heart” is playing from the tape deck.
The Hospital, A Minute Later.
A different nurse unwraps Gazal’s bloody bandages. The dark haired man stands there.
New Nurse: What happened?
Gazal is silent.
Dark haired man: Her husband beat her.
New Nurse: Why?
Dark haired man: Because he hates her so much.
Gazal’s House, An Hour Later.
With fresh bandages but more frail than the time before, Gazal returns to the house with the dark haired man. Terrified, Gazal falls at his feet.
Gazal: Don’t beat me again, I can’t take it.
The dark haired man picks her up and, with kindness, helps her to bed. He stands up beside the bed and pushes the curtains back. It’s day now. He goes to the kitchen, picks up a knife, puts it in his pocket, and leaves the house.
The fair-haired man arrives. He sees them. He starts to turn back when the old man calls to him.
Old Man: Hey Bootblack.
The fair-haired man moves closer, he hesitates but keeps coming.
Dark haired man: Come shine my shoes. The fair-haired man spreads out his supplies and shines the dark haired man’s shoes. The dark haired man sticks his finger into the shoe polish and with the same hand that holds the knife he slowly smears it on the fair-haired man’s face. The fair-haired man pretends not to notice and finishes the dark haired man’s shoes. The old man puts his feet on the box so the fair-haired man will shine his shoes too. The fair-haired man wipes his face with his neck-scarf and looks at the dark haired man. His face is flushed, and he plays with the knife. The fair-haired man gets to work shining the old man’s shoes.
The Street, Daytime.
His face black with shoe polish, the fair-haired man runs down the street wiping off the black streaks with his scarf. The dark haired man runs after him.
The Ferryboat Docks, Continued.
The fair-haired man goes onto the dock, jumps over the fence that keeps out passengers who don’t have tickets, and goes toward a boat that’s moored alongside the deck. The dark haired man also jumps over the fence. An official blocks his way. The dark haired man takes a few bills out of his pocket and puts them in the official’s hand in place of a ticket and boards the ship.
Different Places on the Ship, Continued.
The dark haired man is looking for the fair-haired man, he can’t find him. He opens the bathroom stall doors one by one. The fair-haired man isn’t there. He goes onto the deck. The fair-haired man isn’t there. At the last minute, he sees the fair-haired man hiding himself behind something. He goes toward him and attacks. Punching and kicking follows. We can’t see a single minute of the fight because the view is blocked by the object they are behind. Now the knife is in the fair-haired man’s hands. He goes toward the dark haired man. He puts the knife against the dark haired man’s throat. The dark haired man is tired and beaten.
Fair-haired man: I won’t kill you because we didn’t come into the world to murder on another. [He gives him the knife.] But I’m prepared to die. [He puts the dark haired man’s hand and the knife on his own throat.] Kill me. It’s not in my hands. I can’t not love her.
Wedding, Restaurant, Daytime.
The small elegant restaurant that faces the sea is all prepared for the wedding festivities. Gazal, in a wedding dress, sits beside the fair-haired man in his white wedding suit. The judge is in front of them, and the dark haired man, in his everyday clothes is playing host to the guests. Gazal’s mother wants to leave the ceremony. The dark haired man stops her and forces her to stay.
Judge: For a long time I’ve wanted to live as an individual. For a whole lifetime, I’ve just played my role in society. Since I heard the news of your wedding a week ago, I’ve quit working as a judge. I opened a marriage license office. Judging suits the kind of person who thinks about the consequences of criminals’ actions not the reasons for them. Any sinner I sentenced and whose explanations I listened to, in my own mind, I reached the conclusion that had I been in the same place . . .
The old man enters the restaurant. He has his canary cages with him. He’s looking for the dark haired man. The music that’s playing irritates him. He finds the dark haired man.
Old Man: I brought my canaries for you, to ease your loneliness. But why did you do this?
The dark haired man sits him down beside a table. He looks at the canaries. The he stares straight into the old man’s eyes.
Dark haired man: I was in love with her for two years. Nights I stood beneath her window and sang. She would pour water on my head. I fell deeper in love. When you told me, I beat her. I loved her, so why did I hit her? Why did I hit her? (He starts to cry.) She was in love too. If I can be in love, why can’t she?
The old man can’t stand to listen to what the dark haired man says. He’s crying. He takes off his headphones and looks at the dark haired man’s face. The sound stops. The dark haired man starts speaking again, cries, and even laughs sometimes, but we don’t hear anything. The old man laughs and cries with him. Then he gets up, goes to the bride and groom’s table, looks at them in a menacing way and leaves the wedding. With his departure, sound returns to the wedding. The dark haired man goes to Gazal’s table carrying the canaries.
Judge: [He puts his hand on the dark haired man’s back.] You know we are not real characters. No one finds us believable. You should have killed this man. I should have executed you. Your wife should have met with some ill fate.
The dark haired man takes the wedding ring off his finger and gives it to Gazal.
Dark haired man: Give it to whomever you love.
Taxi on the road and in front of Gazal’s house, Sunset and Nighttime.
The dark haired man is driving. The fair-haired man and Gazal are sitting in the back seat. They each look out the window beside them. The car arrives in front of Gazal’s house, it stops by railroad crossing so that its lights fall on the tracks. The dark haired man gets out. He gives the keys to the taxi to the fair-haired man.
Dark haired man: Your wedding present. God Bless.
The Dark haired man walks off down the railroad tracks holding the canary cages. The headlights make him cast a long shadow. Gazal and the fair-haired man look at each other.
Fair-haired man: We’re together?
Gazal: I’m still not happy.
Fair-haired man: What is happiness?
Gazal: Now I feel like I love him more.
Fair-haired man: I’ll go get him. I’m in love with love, not in love with someone.
He gets out of the car and runs after the dark haired man.
Fair-haired man: Hey wait, wait.
He catches up with the dark haired man who is walking away from them like an apparition and taps him on the back. The apparition turns. It’s the old man. In disbelief, they look at one another. Then the old man throws his arm around the fair-haired man and hugs him.
Old Man: Forgive me for leaving your table. It wasn’t in my control. I couldn’t help it. I, too, shared your suffering. The canary was an excuse; tell me-where’s Gazal?
1. See: Katayon Ghazi, “Love Conquers All but the Ministry of Guidance,” New York Times Friday, August 30, 1991. In Persian, a detailed recreation of all the major interchanges associated with this controversy appears in “Chashm andaz-i yak bas,” Film, no.108 July 1991: 86-94.
2. These lines are from a poem by Forugh Farrokhzad, “Another Birth,” which Makhmalbaf identifies in his text by author name only.