Turn Me On
Posted: Thursday, December 4, 2014 5:30 pm
Jon Stewart impresses with directorial debut ‘Rosewater’
Comedy Central’s own Jon Stewart, the man behind “The Daily Show,” released his directorial debut with “Rosewater.” A drama inspired by the Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari–a man that was captured and interrogated for four months due to a parody interview that actually happened between him and Jason Jones of “The Daily Show.”
The film starts out with Bahari getting arrested in his mother’s house for, at the time, an unknown reason. This scene establishes a sense of mystery pertaining to his incarceration. It immediately flashes back to him traveling from London to Iran.
Bahari’s task was to document his home country’s, Iran, controversial election of 2009. A specific scene between him and Jason Jones is a satirical interview on the election where there are jokes made of “espionage” and other racy Iranian electoral issues.
This is the real reason why he got arrested. Iranian authorities believed he was actually working with an American spy while all he was doing was trying to report for Newsweek. The film makes you think the interview is just another event that results in his arrest and torture, but you’ll just have to watch to find out.
The first act serves as a flashback for the viewer showing what got him to the arrest. The last two acts focus on the brutal interrogation that Bahari underwent. He was locked in Evin Prison for 118 days before his release. Bahari is blindfolded by his captors, similarly to the confusion viewers should feel going into this movie.
Bahari’s interrogations were controlled by his “Specialist,” the film’s term for interrogators, whom were identifiable by the smell of rosewater coming off of him. He is only known by “Rosewater” because when you are blindfolded, only four senses are used. Sight is not one of them, obviously.
Gael García Bernal portrays Bahari, giving an excellent performance that can be compared to some of his other works–specifically “The Motorcycle Diaries.” He hires a driver right when he arrives to Iran thinking it will be a cab, but it turns out to be a motorcycle. It couldn’t help but remind me of his work in “Diaries.”
The movie touches on serious themes that are much more universal than Iranian prison life. This film studies hope, family and much more. Jon Stewart also proved himself as a director with his first film, able to use a style that appeals to everyone.
The interrogation scenes, consisting of torture, are toned down for the older people who aren’t as desensitized as the younger generation. There are scenes where you can see animated hashtags establishing the themes that are subtlety placed throughout the film. This allows younger audiences access into the deeper level of emotion felt through this film.
Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater” is a powerful film that shows true potential for him in later films if he continues–hopefully. There are some areas that do need show improvement.
I believe the torture scenes, though turned back for a reason, should have at least been a little more graphic to help the viewer empathize. I would say the same with the animated hashtags. Give younger people more credit than blatantly placing the subtext in front of the viewer.
The animated sequences throw off the overall tone of the film. It is a good thing most, if not all, of these sequences occur during the flashback. They would work if Stewart wasn’t also changing the film’s style when he would show actual footage of the events. Stewart should have stuck with the actual footage, or found-footage style, rather than have both.
“Rosewater” proves to be an excellent story, diving into the life of Bahari. The film remains powerfully intimate, yet beautifully universal as you leave the cinema.
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Thursday, December 4, 2014 5:30 pm.