May 19, 2024

Legendary Iranian stage and screen actor Shohreh Aghdashloo He’s a captivating screen presence, and for good reason. With her distinctive lilting voice and sharp, unwavering gaze, she commands attention every moment she’s on screen, be it in her lead role. the expansea voiceover or a guest appearance in a TV series, or more recently the role of Ella Renfield. But it was decades before he became the first Iranian to be nominated for an Oscar in the acting category, in 2003. House of Sand and Fog – Aghdashloo made his screen debut and stole the show in 1976. Chess of the Wind.


Chess of the Wind It premiered at the Tehran Film Festival in 1976 and was never seen again. Part of this is likely due to its mixed reception, as the film never got a chance after it was outlawed by the new Islamic government that took power in the 1979 revolution. Beyond the technical reason for the ban – the women presented on the screen – Chess of the Wind It also works as a nuanced political commentary on Iran in the late 1970s, despite the 1920s atmosphere, which is almost ideal for a new regime trying to exert total control over a resistant population. However, in 2015, the original negatives were discovered, and the film was painstakingly restored, finally becoming part of it. Martin Scorsese‘s World Film Project with Criterion.

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What is ‘Chess of the Wind’?

The cast of Wind Chess
Image via Janus Films

Set in 1920s Iran, Chess of the Wind It follows a young aristocratic woman known as Khanum Koochak or “The Little Lady” (Fakhri Khorvash), after the death of the mother. After 40 days of mourning, his family is eager to settle the inheritance issue with his stepfather Haji Amou (By Mohamad Ali Keshavar) and her nephews all seeking a piece of the dead woman’s fortune for themselves. Caught in their web—or perhaps pulling some strings herself—is the Little Lady’s maid, known as Kanizak (Aghdashloo), who begins the story in humble fashion before gradually becoming a power player. Located within the boundaries of the great palace, Chess of the Wind He deftly combines political commentary on a changing Iran with disturbing cinematography and a haunting score to create a moody and understated thriller that borders on horror.

Shohreh Aghdashloo’s Kaniza Quietly steals the show

with that Chess of the Wind Being Shohreh Aghdashloo’s screen debut, viewers could be forgiven for thinking that Kaniza was a bit of a part, the kind given to a new actor, designed to color the backdrop of the melodrama being made by the seasoned pros sharing the screen. . It’s clear from the start, though, and more and more clear as the film progresses, that Aghdashloo is a strong actor to be reckoned with. The characters, and by extension the audience, underestimate Kaniza, but they do so at their peril. Now it’s easy enough to joke that, in the case of a sprawling thriller set in a manor, of course the maid did it. But Chess of the Wind it’s smart not to let Kaniza shine too bright too soon to dismiss the idea.

The film also uses social commentary to reinforce the role played by Kaniza. Setting the film in the 1920s, on the eve of Iran’s transition to a more “modern” era, the director Mohammad Reza Aslani he is drawing parallels with his present-day Iran, three years after the 1979 revolution, the disastrous consequences of which are felt to this day. Iran immediately before the revolution, like Iran at the height of “modernization”, is a nation that does not know what to do with the changing nature of social class. In Chess of the WindAghdashloo’s Kanizak puts this uncertainty aside and takes matters into her own hands.

Kanizak’s Silence Speaks

Shohreh Aghdashloo and Fakhri Khorvash in Wind Chess
Image via Janus Films

At the beginning of the film, Shohreh Aghdashloo’s role is mostly carried out in silence, observing the happenings at home as she goes about her duties. Indeed, the schemes for the house and the fortune are mainly attributed to Haji Amou, while the concern for the outcome rests with the Little Lady. Only when Damacho decides to do something about her situation, namely kill Haji Amou, does Kanizak appear to take on a more instrumental role.

Now tied to hiding Haji Amou’s body, and having to lie to the police about his whereabouts, Kaniza and Damatxoa grow closer, resulting in both showing curiosity and physical attraction to the other. This new closeness does not lead to any permanent alliance, however, as it immediately becomes clear that Kaniza is using her body and sexuality to play the whole family against each other to her advantage.

In this way, Aghdashloo so steadfastly steals the show and absolutely captivates in the role. Not in her use of overt sexuality—indeed, there is almost nothing “overt” about Kaniza’s behavior—but in the way her performance invites the audience to move on and disparage the little maid, as the rest of the household do. . He barely speaks unless spoken to, or to serve as a sounding board. When his involvement in the latest plans becomes apparent, and when Haji Amou’s nephew is revealed to be conspiring with Shaban (Shahram Golchin), only then will we see who he really is beneath the role predetermined by society. Only then does his performance take on the spark and life we’ve glimpsed so far. Kaniza becomes a fully realized character when her motivations are also fully realized, and she presents herself not as a pawn in the game, but as one of the players.

Until then, the audience takes his actions and his words at face value: after all, they are not the same the story belongs to Damatxo. It’s only at the end of the film, when the whole family is dead and Kaniza leaves home for the wider world beyond that you realize it was really her story.

These subtle nuances are ultimately what make Shohreh Aghdashloo so compelling to watch. Chess of the Wind. He is not put in the forefront, despite a script that would easily forget him, and the telegraph of the story does not play a prominent role for him. The truly impressive feat is watching Aghdashloo come to life in a slow-paced story, gradually paving the way for her to take the lead role in such a masterful way that the audience wonders how they’ll let her look away.

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