A Time for Drunken Horses (2000) – Iranian’s Poignant Cinema

★★★★½

In the first 10-minutes of the movie, Bahman Ghobadi takes you into the urban environment of Middle Eastern countries, especially in Kurdish. You witnessed how these people worked every day, helping each other, but also seizing each other’s opportunities. On the other hand, your focus focuses on the five groups of siblings whom you don’t know all of them. But, the feeling and the pressure when all of the siblings take turns and scramble with other adults it’s so hard to watch. After you have witnessed how the pressures flow, you think that all of this is over. But, it’s not. All of the main obstacles appear when they find out that their father died.

“A Time for Drunken Horses”, again, amazed me with Iranian filmmaking. After Asghar Farhadi, there is Bahman Ghobadi. He is mostly known for “Turtles Can Fly”, a movie about Kurdish people as well. Kurdish peoples, in reality, face a bitter, real, and sick phenomenon both inside and outside. Their lands are right in the middle of the border between Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. They aren’t too concerned with education, identity, or others. The most important thing they did was how to prevent regimes from catching them. They just want to survive by surviving in the hinterland environment.

To think again this movie is about politics, it’s more about how all of these characters survive. They can only survive from bandits on the way. Ameneh (Amaneh Ekhtiar-dini) and Ayoub (Ayoub Ahmadi) face the harsh facts if their younger dwarf sibling whose little crippling boy fell ill. They must save him by finding a doctor as best he can, working as much as possible by delivering a supply, and studying for the future. All that they do at the same time. However, they have their respective duties. Ameneh studied for her siblings and Ayoub had to replace his father as a family back for his younger siblings.

Children, in the Middle East, especially this movie, reflects this reality into the form of moving images, having to work every day. They live for the sake of lifting a supply to be brought to the marketplace. But, they have to deal with adults first because they think how all of this should work. For the audience, we see them feeling sorry. However, for adults, that’s another story. The main thing they need is only food and fortunately, Ameneh and her siblings still have a family to make a place to live.

We see how the relationship between Ayoub and Ameneh is very emotional. Like a sibling relationship, they don’t often fight with other reasons but also love each other. They both love their ill brother where you never hear him talk from beginning to end of the film. Even the end of the movie makes you think whether everyone is safe or not. What is at the end of the film? At other times too, their crippled brother often cries and grimaces in pain due to his illness being too severe. He needs an operation and within a year, he will die if he doesn’t get the operation. It’s so gripping.

Moments by moments are so pounded. Every sequence in this movie is very thrilling dramatically and emotionally. When the three siblings just find out their father dies, it’s so desperate than any other character. With the title comes from the horse drink alcohol so that the horse can last a long time across the mountains, the movie didn’t come as dull. It’s easy to empathize with all of the characters in it. Unblinkingly, Iranian cinema becomes one of the most gorgeous cinema in every cinema in the world. Ranging from story, cinematography, and tone, you think that cinema is only propaganda with a subtle politics on it. Besides the point, the message is there and you get it well.

This is a Ghohabi first-featured film. By watching this film, I think if his visual style is so resonant with all Asghar Farhadi’s work. The documentary-style in it, it’s like watching every scene happening in the place. It’s more interesting if you know all of the villagers aren’t actors. They just play as themselves. Every shot is a marvel but tragic. The malformed performance from Madi Ekhtiar-dini is one of the saddest things you have ever seen in a movie. Now, I think if the ending was more like a metaphor to all of the fate of the siblings. As with other arthouse movies, you can’t expect what this movie wants for you.