Tonight’s the last night of rehearsals for the Fractal show performed by members of an underground theater group called Silence. The team was run by a board of directors consisting of all members up until 2 weeks ago but they, using collective votes, decided to choose Amirhossein to be the coordinator and Eddy to be his assistant with the aim of getting things done neatly. Amirhossein, despite their initial plans, decides to propose an unexpected scenario, which the group is not aware of, in the last night of rehearsals and surprise them. Tonight, after 2 weeks of waiting, members of the group are expecting Amirhossein to reveal his surprise, and prepare themselves accordingly for tomorrow’s final performance.
Everyone is getting ready to start rehearsing. They are confused by Amirhossein’s decision but have accepted it, except for Maya. Maya didn’t participate in the voting which elected Amirhossein and she opposed this selection and Amirhossein’s idea to surprise the team on the last night of rehearsals from the beginning. She is suspicious of Amirhossein’s and Eddy’s intentions. Make-ups are done and members of the team are supposed to hear Amirhossein’s surprise after eating dinner. In the meantime, there are scatter-talks about animal rights, criticisms in society, civilization and anything that occupies their minds. In between these talks Maya notices that a light is on in the basement that was never a center of attention before tonight. She goes inside and saw something that makes her more suspicious of Amirhossein and Eddy. While the guys are entertaining themselves with a song, Kaveh Mianeh, the supervisor and the producer of Fractal performance calls Amirhossein. Maya, now very suspicious of Amirhossein, eavesdrop on their conversation and realizes there is something going on that even Eddy is not aware of and Kaveh will be joining the group in 2 hours.
Finally, Amirhossein reveals his surprise. The surprise is that all members, except Edie and Amirhossein, are supposed to be immobile throughout the performance instead of the sculptures on the stage. The group is shocked as his surprise is more ridiculous than anyone has ever thought. At first, everyone opposes this idea. Shekufa is the first one to agree with Amirhossein’s surprise plan in exchange for being the center of attention and an increase in her payment, and then Hirad also agreed in exchange for designing his own acts.
Sabah who feels that something fishy is going on, realizes that she shouldn’t take the roles of the statues which are said to be the main roles. In exchange for playing a minor role and seeking her self-interests, she agrees to cooperate with Eddy and Amirhossein. Members of the group continue to work with Amirhossein and Eddy until Hirad and Sammy decide to add more violence to the show. Everyone agrees with this decision and eagerly starts stoning Sammy.
Everyone gets alarmed by their fighting and come out of the house but Eddy violently shoves Maya to the ground and doesn’t let her be heard. Eddy and Amirhossein take everyone back inside the house. They kick Maya out of the house and don’t let anybody find out anything about what is going on in the basement. Amirhossein asks Eddy to perform instead of Maya, he refuses. All those who play a role in this performance won’t participate in Kaveh’s next show. When Eddy and Amirhossein realized Kaveh’s decision 2 weeks ago, they decided to change the scenario and be the two directors and send everyone out to act. Now Amirhossein tells Eddy that his name was among the cast from the beginning. Eddy, while did all the directing, won’t be participated in Kaveh’s next show and the only director will be Amirhossein. Eddy is forced to play the role he planned for Maya by the members of the group, who are unaware of what’s really going on and their only concern is to finish the current performance. A role trapped in an aquarium. Maya gets out of the house and minutes before Kaveh arrives, while the group was rehearsing, roof of the house collapses and the performance remains unfinished.
Sadegh Satari DibazarProducer
Taymaz GolshanKey Cast"Amirhossein"
Mahsa KhodadadiKey Cast"Maya"
Emad DarvishiKey Cast"Eddy"
Mahan ArafiKey Cast"Shekufa"
Amir MohammadiKey Cast"Sammy"
Mohammadali ZanjaniKey Cast"Hirad"
Golbarg AzamiKey Cast"Sabah"
Genres:Dark Comedy, drama
Runtime:1 hour 47 minutes 40 seconds
Completion Date:February 28, 2021
Country of Origin:Iran, Islamic Republic of
Country of Filming:Iran, Islamic Republic of
Taormina Film FestRome
June 28, 2021
Liwi ProductionDistributorCountry: WorldwideRights: All Rights
Rezvan Pakpour is an Iranian Director born in 1992 in Arak, Iran. When she was 18, she moved to Tehran to study counseling at Beheshti University and then Alzahra University for her master degree. After that, she started psychotherapy in psychological clinic. While studying counseling, she passed courses on basics of film directing and script writing in Karnameh Institute Arts and Cultural. She was a member of the theatre group at Österreichisches Kulturforum Tehran between 2012 and 2014 and worked on “Ahoura Mazda” performance. In 2016 she entered Art University of Tehran to study her second major in film making and directed her first short film “Flute for Glassroom” which was screened at 15th Nahal Film Festival. While studying filmmaking, she wrote analytical critiques for Padidar Film Magazine. She also participated as different crew members in several short film projects during her years in Art University. In 2019 she started working on the first title of her Trilogy, “Fractal” which is her debut feature film. In 2020 she co-founded Liwi Production with Sadegh Satari to continue making films working with young and talented artists. She is now working with Sadegh on the script of the second title in her Trilogy
Fractal narrates a day from a performance by an underground theatre group in house that is falling apart, somewhere in Middle-East. Its actors are a new generation who are trying to perform their play underground and without limitations, but confined by the methods of their ancestors, they can’t stop limiting themselves. They lie and double-cross each other for personal gain which is reaching a better and higher positions. One of them finds out the hidden truth but she’s nipped in the bud.
I got the idea for writing the script of Fractal after studying Choice Theory by William Glasser and Adler’s theory and when I learned different needs of human psyche. Some years later, witnessing the destruction, civil wars and social unrest against dictatorships in the Middle-East, I started writing. In Middle-East, lack of proper satisfaction of the need for power due to existing dictatorships can be well understood. This causes satisfaction of inferiority feelings to replace self-actualization and domination to replace governing. Concepts like justice, freedom, coercion, domination, lying and duplicity in society caught my attention. At the same time, I watched a documentary of Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment and saw the importance of the roles assigned to individuals and the impact they have on the exercise of power over those around them. This domination causes lying, duplicity and double-crossing to become means for reaching goals and individuals to do anything to satisfy this need and what’s better than puppeteering humans. Humans become puppets for the power seeker and the thirst for power which is caused by inferiority complex becomes the only drive. There is no real freedom and we only see a shell of democracy along with doxastic coercion with puppeteering. This doxastic coercion causes free human connection to lose its foundation. Everyone just talks without having comprehensive information about various matters. Disagreement replaces diversity of opinion. Nested dialogues and characters talking over each other, causing some dialogues not being heard, is my main style of writing. This style of writing dialogues is the influenced I get from society. A society that I think is caught up in a phenomenon I call "dialogue pollution". If I had to name the current period we’re living in, it would be ‘dialogue pollution’. People are constantly talking loudly about their inner thoughts and platforms are readily available to share these voices with everybody and many of these voices are not appealing to some ears. These voices being talkative, nested and loud about numerous and trending subjects may silence other more important voices. Each and every voice is important on its own, at least for its speaker. We are obligated by freedom of speech to allow all of them to be heard. This is the reality of our time. We can’t anticipate if it is good or bad. Fractal reflects these voices. Characters often interrupt each other in their speeches as it’s common in real life. A firm belief in portraying the reality of the contemporary world and commitment to show this reality made us to create these clamors. For now, we have to watch and test our endurance in world full of dialogue. Unity is gone and social paranoia replaces empathy. “Imaginaries” and “Grimaces” are not competitors, they are enemies. Anyone with us is considered friend and anyone without us is considered enemy. This social paranoia results in global paranoia and the closure of doors and a wall that stretches around the house.
Silence Theatre Group symbolize society in Middle-East. The characters are the people we encounter in everyday life. If anyone finds out the truth, he or she is attacked by people and nipped in the bud. Truth will never be discovered and is lost between the clamors. Maya is the hero in the film. A woman who stands against the dictatorial society. She seeks freedom and change in society but she also has behavioral traits of this society and this makes her a gray character. When she finds out the truth in the basement everyone attacks her. They don’t want to hear anything and eventually she’s expelled, but her path remains and stretches along the sea.
When writing the scenario for Fractal, depicting people in society, with their own real traits, tones, conversational topics, morals and temperaments, was of utmost importance to me. This fact necessitated staying true to them when writing. As a result, I burrowed dialogs from the conversations I heard every day from people in society. I took notes from whatever I heard in different circles, and put them in the script with little distortion. At the same time, when depravity reaches its utmost limits, nothing but comedy can express it. So, using parody and dark comedy to show this depravity in intellect and reason seemed appropriate. I was influenced by Martin McDonagh’s plays and also Sadegh Hedayat’s short stories in this way.
The cast was chosen from theatrical performers due to theatrical mood of the scenario. Coaching actors was based on their unconscious mind. I utilized my expertise in psychology and coached the actors based on Carl Roger’s views on counseling. Which states, the actors must be free in here and now to be able to take their desired actions based on their own mental solutions.
Some shots were totally based on improvisation due to this fact. This necessitated a very tight connection between the actors and me as the director. It was the reason for having relatively long rehearsal sessions with the actors lasting 8 months; 7 months in studio and 1 month in the main filming location.
The same approach, used with the actors, that was based on the unconscious mind, was also used in cinematography. We needed the cameraman to shoot in here and now. The cameraman is like a third person who watches the house as a curious spectator. He follows actors and peeps anywhere he likes or his curiosity leads him and improvise where necessary. My close connection with the cinematographer resulted in coherence of our ideas. In order to reach this goal, the cinematographer was also involved in our rehearsal sessions. Decoupage was formed in this tight connection between me as the director, actors and the cinematographer.
The photographer needed to be in close contact with her subjects in order to recreate the image. Emphasis on personal story was important in photography but this time everyone involved in creating the film was the subject in addition to the cast. The recording of photographs was based on improvised acts in here and now. Therefore, each photo can have its own backstory, which might not be seen in the film, but it can be felt in between the photos. The photos were presented as they were without any editing to remain faithful to here and now and the moment. Therefore, the authenticity of light and color was kept so as to not diminish the reality in them. Relying on light and color is a prominent feature of all photos. All these makes the photos especially important to us.
Considering my academic sub discipline, editing, and my passion for live theatre, I wish to create a unification of editing and live theatre, which may seem impossible to many. Given that the story takes place in a theatrical atmosphere, in my opinion, it was necessary to look at editing in a different way.
We have acts as major divisions of a theatre work. I was faithful to these divisions in Fractal. We have long continuous shots like in live theatre. We used cinematography and moving camera angles to change the field of view of the audience without using editing cuts; but when we wanted to change the act and hear and follow a new subject or change the emotional and tenor atmosphere, we used editing cuts. Otherwise changing shots was done by moving camera angle. Maybe I can call it editing on acts.
The composer was involved in most rehearsal sessions in order for him to submerge in the mood of the cast and the atmosphere of the script. That way, when he wrote the Fractal track, it would be more believable that the characters in the film wrote it themselves. He was also present in production.
The film score consists of soundtracks which narrates the joint moments of human presence in the crowd and solitude. Like the characters who are grouped together but miles apart as their communication is faulty. The prominence of the Lydian mode, the emphasis on fourth augmented and also the use of electronic music are among the soundtracks characteristics; which are in tone with this generation’s mood. In the end, there’s a Jazz track which accompanies clarinet and destruction.
Set and color design
Set and color design develops in the first few scenes in beginning of the film, which foreshadows the whole story. All the emotions which we would feel throughout the whole film can be seen in the colors of the first scene. Yellow, green, blue, red and khaki, a flickering lamp, the statues, which are always passive, are in the scene.
The flickering lamp comes with insecurities in communications, emotions and conversations between the characters. The basement is the underlying truth of the society in which a secret is hidden and it remains hidden.
Make-Ups and Costumes
Paying close attention to details in costume and makeup design such as the fabrics, colors and the collar on their necks was important. The contrast between the complexity of make-ups on male and female characters is obvious. As women are forced to censor themselves and present themselves outside their real appearance. Consider the heavy and uncomfortable wig made of safety pins on Sabah or excessively puffed hair on Shekufa which even covers her face in some instances. Only one woman is more unbounded relative to others and that’s Maya, although she too has to covers her head with paint. Women’s costumes were also designed to feel more uncomfortable than men’s costumes. Consider the skeleton glued on Shekufa’s body which impairs her movements or her tight and hard leather vest.
Considering the fact that Fractal is not a conventional Iranian film in its style and story-telling, its make-up and costumes, it was difficult to find a producer in Iranian mainstream cinema. I discussed the film with several producers who liked the script but they were not willing to collaborate and they suggested adding Hijab in costumes and make-up of actresses or censorship of parts of the content which I did not tolerate. Meeting Sadegh Satari changed all that. Sadegh, like myself, have adventurousness views on filmmaking. He, like myself, believed that bringing visual diversity and unique storytelling methods are absent in Iranian Cinema. Our converging views lead to an exceptional and successful collaboration. His trust and encouragement in me and all the members of the team energized us all for creating Fractal.
This film was an exceptional experience for me. Its non-conventionalities in style and content makes the film one of the first works of this genre in Iranian Cinema. Simultaneity of this film with recent socio-political events in the Middle East, which in terms of content made the atmosphere relatable to all of us and if we believe every work of art should be “the child of its time”, Fractal is a child worthy of its time. Collaboration with a producer who ignited passion and excitement in me and the crew. Working with cast and crew who most of them are the youngest generation of artists in the last decade of Iranian cinema has always been an important dream which was made possible with the help of the producer of the film. My debut feature and the first Iranian feature film which was made by the new and emerging millennial artists as producer, director and all of crew members. All these made this film very special and exceptional for me and all crew members of our film.
Spring of 2021