ifilm is set to air award-winning ‘The Warden’ on Saturday and that is a good reason to read a review on the flick.
Nima Javidi's second feature film has enough maturity and quality level, supported by the director’s depth of experience and look.
The distance between his debut and second is the distance between imitation and independence. His first film ‘Melbourne’ was made under the influence of Asghar Farhadi's cinema and for this reason, it was severely criticized. Even his first film, regardless of influences by Farhadi’s style of moviemaking, has a thought-provoking and engaging story that leaves the audience with difficult judgments and decisions in ethical moments.
The same difficult situation, of course, occurs in ‘The Warden’ in a different way. Perhaps, it was in response to such criticism that Javidi made his second feature quite different from his first film’s ambiance, as an essentially different experience in Iranian cinema. The differences can be seen in the opening scene of the flick and the first frame with the image of a gallows in rainy weather.
The film focuses on two critical components of cinema simultaneously - the story and the image - and in this sense, we can say that ‘The Warden’ is the cinema itself with its common features. It has a cinematic nature and narrative, providing a wide range of possibilities for visual work. The frames bring the visual aesthetics to life on the screen in the heart of a spectacular filming location, with a narrative and story that the audience cannot ignore. A story is based on a dramatic triangle; the official in charge of the prison, the warden, who is looking for a fugitive prisoner, and there is also a social worker who is trying to help the prisoner (Ahmad Sorkhpoust) escape or release from prison, and on the other, the warden is in love with the lady.
In fact, the gravity and focal point of this triangle is the warden (Nemat Jahed), who is torn between his love for a prison social worker and the urge to arrest a fugitive, featuring a classic dilemma between love and duty.
Although the story is set in a fixed location and within the closed walls of a prison, it has internal suspense and external tensions that finally gain a proper rhythm along with the brilliant atmosphere and filming. The different and powerful acting of Navid Mohammadzadeh with challenging ending eventually turns ‘The Warden’ into a remarkable film.
Undoubtedly, one of the most important upsides of the film is the eye-catching and wonderful camerawork of Houman Behmanesh. Even if you do not like the film, it is impossible not to enjoy the framing and visual aesthetics of the film. A film whose main challenge is toward its end - both in terms of the final section as it has become the focus of controversy for its critique and analysis as well as its dramatic and complex situation of the protag who seems to choose between love and duty and decides not to arrest Sorkhpoust.
Seemingly, his main challenge was to find a prisoner, not to arrest or turn him over to the authorities. This decision is supported by both his love for the social worker and the ethical justification he tries to find throughout the story, convincing himself of the prisoner's innocence. Then he prefers his release to a job promotion. It looks as if he decided to disguise himself as a lover instead of a warden. The main message of the film is formulated exactly in the ending scene. The end of a challenge that some oppose and consider to lack dramatic logic, but the psychological and moral logic of this paradox seem to be so strong that it can justify Major Nemat Jahed's decision to let the prisoner go.
His decision is like breaking out of the prison of doubt, opting for love, Indeed, by choosing love, he makes an ethical and humane choice. He sacrifices his worldly position and promotion for a love he has always wanted and that the lack of such love had made an unethical person out of him. Jahed prefers not to sit at an office desk that perpetuates his loneliness, but instead, he sits next to someone who would be left alone and sad forever if he did not prefer so.
At the same time, he accidentally gets stuck in one of the prison cells, and this horrible experience increases the possibility of understanding the fugitive even better and emboldens his desire to release the prisoner. ‘The Warden’ is an ethical romantic movie in a mystery/thriller genre.