‘A Hero’, 2021, dir. Asghar Farhadi.
The 9th feature of renowned Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi explores human nature, its virtues and its cunningness.
The movie starts with a man walking briskly along the road with a smile on his face. The man’s name is Rahim Soltani (Amir Jadidi) and he has just been released on temporary leave from a debtor’s prison. His lover Farkondeh (Sahar Goldoost) has found a wallet with golden coins in it, which can potentially help him out from the shackles of debt. The unlucky couple initially wants to sell the coins to ensure Rahim’s release but in the end, Rahim decides to report his finding to the police before having to return to jail. However, the silver lining of Rahim’s decision is when the police and the local community learn about his noble act and turn him into a hero.
Will his debtor forgive him? Can one noble act sanctify a man’s countless lies?
Farhadi refrains from being moralistic. We are neither manipulated into rooting for Rahim nor condemning him. Instead, the Iranian auteur is interested in the complexity of morality itself. Is Rahim a bad person? Or, is he a victim of unfortunate events? Farhadi painstakingly portrays how contingent our own morality is. One misstep and you are in prison. One good deed and people think you are a saint.
As an audience, we get completely absorbed in Rahim’s tale as we get to witness the web of lies that he ends up weaving, yet we also understand that his intentions are not evil. He simply wants to regain his freedom.
At one point in the film, when the police, the local community, and Rahim’s family are begging his debtor Bahram (Mohsen Tanabandeh) to forgive him, Bahram asks why we praise one man for perhaps a single good thing he has done in his life while neglecting millions of other good acts done by other people? In this brilliant instance, Farhadi captures the human urge to shelter oneself under dualistic and simplistic thinking instead of facing complexities and moral ambiguities.
On the surface A Hero is a family drama, but at heart, it is a tale of tragedy. Rahim is like the Dostoevskian figure trapped in a web of desperation, deception, and bureaucracy.