Forough Farrokhzad was a poet and Iranian director who in the fifties and sixties fought for women’s rights in Iran through her art and her intellectual commitment. She pioneered the avant-garde movement modernist.
Forough Farrokhzad’s Persian Poem
Born in Tehran on January 5, 1934, Forough Farrokhzad had a difficult life due to the Iranian regime and conservatives. Her poems helped to renew Persian literature and to bring attention to the role of women in the traditional family and the limitations of women’s freedoms.
Considered by many to be the greatest Iranian poet of modernity, Forough Farrokhzad lived outside the box of traditional Iranian society from an early age. Born into a middle-class family, she dropped out of school as a young girl to study painting.
Later he devoted himself to poetry and in the mid-fifties he wrote the poetic collection Prigioniera. These are autobiographical poems that describe how the poet felt trapped, deprived of her freedom in everyday life. Divorces her husband leaving him with her little son and lives relationships with other men, which is inadmissible for the time in the context in which she lived.
In those years after the revolution poetry and art in Iran had come to a standstill. There was no more vitality in the avant-garde movements. Forough Farrokhzad resists this depressing scenario, kicking off themovement modernist poetry and using cinema as a poetic art form. Which many other Iranian artists would have done.
Forough Farrokhzad achieves something in poetry that has never been seen in Iran. He makes of it a personal diary of his aspirations, his deepest feelings, and his inner motives of rebellion. All this greatly annoys the Iranian Shah of the time, who under the facade of a democratic and modern government hid the ghettoization of women in a subordinate role.
The Rebellious Spirit of Forough Farrokhzad
Over time his poems also acquire an erotic charge, with descriptions of the sexuality experienced with his lovers. He goes without hiding an intellectual already married in Tehran. To escape social pressure, he moved to Europe after shooting the documentary La casa e nera, in 1963. The documentary was awarded at many prestigious European festivals. She collaborates as an actress with the Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci in a short film.
Back in Iran, she continues to describe her feelings through poetry, sometimes with melancholy overtones, sometimes with resentment towards the bureaucratization of love with marriage. Over time, however, in his literary works, his optimism and his rebellious spirit seem to fade into a dead end solitude. His latest poems are pervaded by resignation to a tragic fate, by premonitions of death.
Forough Farrokhzad has openly sided against the exploitation of women who have the sole purpose of life to be a wife and mother, and against the limits of female sexuality in Iranian society. However, his ethical battle prevented him from living a quiet life. She died at the age of only 32 in a car accident due to the icy road, while returning from a visit from her mother.
Forough Farrokhzad is probably the most read and translated Iranian poetess in the world, inspirer of other poets from the areas bordering Iran, such as Afghanistan. It has become the symbol of the Iranians’ desire for liberation, of women’s rights, especially in the younger generations.
His tomb located in Tehran has become a pilgrimage destination for those who aspire to greater freedom.
Film Studies in Europe
After the Iranian revolution, the regime’s censorship raged against Persian publishers and literature, including the works of Forough Farrokhzad. Some poets then saw the potential of cinema which allowed them to express the same criticism of society masked behind the metaphorical and symbolic value of images.
The political, spiritual and social significance of many films in fact remains ambiguous, and in some cases highly subjective. Horror, for example, is used in many cases as a critique of the system, denouncing the misdeeds behind the mask of a film genre that apparently seems to be just entertainment.
It was Italian Neorealism that inspired many Iranian writers and persuaded them to devote themselves to cinema. Artists such as Bahram Bayzaii, Ebrahim Golestan and Forough Farrokhzad saw a promising future in cinema. Ebrahim Golestan was Forough Farrokhzad’s mistress, and convinced the poet to go and study film in England.
After finishing her studies in Europe, the poet returns to Iran and becomes Golestan’s assistant director for films such as Water and Heat (1961), and A Fire (1961). Thanks to the success of A Fire, the Iranian Shah commissions a film from Golestan about society for the aid of lepers, and the director has Forough Farrokhzad make it. The purity of the poetry that approaches the cinema makes it a masterpiece: The house is black.
The House is Black
The house is black the only film by Forough Farrokhzad, who is immediately fascinated by the metaphorical potential of cinema and the ambiguity of the images. It is no coincidence that the Iranian cinema of those years was of the highest level: it was practiced by poets and intellectuals who had no commercial objective. Cinema for them was a new tool to tell their vision of the world.
Most of the films, especially documentaries made in the 60s and 70s in Iran, were censored and seized by the Iranian regime of Pahlavi. Films like Kamran Shirdel’s The Women’s Quarter about Tehran’s red light district were seized and then burned.
Golestan’s son attempted to print a new copy with a new soundtrack of The woman Quarter. But years later it was seized again by the Islamic regime. It has always been very difficult in some cases impossible to distribute films in Iran. In The House is Black by Forough Farrokhzad manages to find a compromise between the documentary film commissioned by the power and poetry that shows us a tragic human condition.
The House is Black is a poem in the form of images and voice off, a short documentary about a leper colony located in a remote village in Iran. The director films without filters the physical deformations, the repetition of gestures emptied of meaning and the lack of all hope in leprosy patients, those admitted to the Bababaghi Hospice.
At the end of the shoot she will adopt a child she had grown fond of. The film was unsuccessful upon its release, but was subsequently selected and awarded at many Western festivals. Many critics agree that it is the first film of the Iranian New Wave.
Much appreciated by the filmmaker Chris Marker who defines The House is Black as a poetic film capable of showing with rare sensitivity what cannot be watched. Leprosy becomes the metaphor of evil in the world, the universal disease of the marginalized and the outcast. An evil of which the poet gives a reading at different levels, reciting with her narrating voice her poems, verses from the Koran and the Bible.
The predominant theme is that of the suffering generated by a closed society, where people are ghettoized and treated as waste. This is the recurring theme throughout his poem.