Mehrjui, philosopher of Iranian Cinema (8 December 1939 - 14 October 2023)

System Administrator Tuesday February 20, 2024

Dariush Mehrjui (8 December 1939- 14 October 2023) and Vahideh Mohammadifar, his wife and co-scriptwriter of his latest films, were tragically stabbed to death in the midnight of 14 th of October in their villa, in a suburb of Tehran. We, in Iran, say that we are used to confront everything, any unexpected tragedy, but again and again, we are surprised and even more startled and crazy! Who could believe the most influential filmmaker of Iranian cinema and his wife would become the victims of such suspicious crime! An artist, so lively and energetic at 84, who was writing several scripts and novels, eagerly reading and translating, painting, playing music,… An intellectual, in absolute definition of the word. His films have been chosen among the best of Iranian film history in several polling and no other director’s movies are that much loved and seen by film-lovers, critics and ordinary people.


Iranian filmmaker, Dariush Mehrjui
Iranian filmmaker, Dariush Mehrjui


A true believer as a teenager, he then fell in love with art, music, painting, literature and then his obsession, Philosophy. He moved to US to study filmmaking in 1959 and after a short while, he preferred to shift into philosophy. He published a periodical, Pars Review, in the 60s in California through which he could introduce the new Iranian literature and poetry. He returned home in 1965 and after two years, he his debut feature film, DIAMOND 33, which was a success at the box-office, however, Mehrjui never included this film his career! He was involved in all Iranian intellectual communities in 60s and 70s and became acquainted with many like Gholam- Hossein Sa’edi, a playwright, whose works were the source of adaptations for couple of Mehrjui’s next films, including THE COW (1969), which was banned immediately by the regime of Shah for two years but it was shown at Cannes (1971), Venice (1971) and Berlin (1972) festivals and it was very well received by the audience and critics and formed the NEW WAVE of IRANIAN CINEMA in 70s, together with other filmmakers like Massoud Kimiai, Nasser Taghvai, Sohrab Shahid- Saless, Amir Naderi, Parviz Kimiavi, Abbas Kiarostami, Bahram Bayzai, Ali Hatami, Bahmand Farmanara, Kamran Shirdel and Mohammad- Reza Aslani.

Dariush Mhejui’s film career, according to he himself, has been always influenced by censorship rather than his own wish! After THE COW, he had to make MR. NAÏVE in 1970, however, he then made two other masterpieces, THE POSTMAN (1971) and THE CYCLE (1975) which both were kept in the shelves of censorship for years. He was not able to make any films after such limitations or he had to consider some consideration! He’s always been a suspicious both at the time of Shah and then Islamic Republic, though many believe that Ayatollah Khomeini’s quotation on THE COW, saved the so-called notorious pre-revolutionary Iranian cinema and many of the art filmmakers could continue to make films after the revolution. One should say that, Mehrjui, like majority of intellectuals, were enthusiastically involved in the Revolution and Dariush recorded many demonstrations and events in 1978 too.


'The Cow' (1969) is regarded as the film that ushered in the new wave movement in Iranian cinema.  
'The Cow' (1969) is regarded as the film that ushered in the new wave movement in Iranian cinema.  


Dariush Mehrjui made THE SCHOOL WE WENT TO in 1980 for KANOON, however, this film was banned for 9 years and made Mehrjui and his family to immigrate to France in 1981. Again, he returned home after a while and made a comedy, THE LODGERS in 1987 which turned to be a box-office hit and in the meantime controversial movie, as some hard-liners believed it is a parody on Islamic Republic and he was even threatened to death. Again, the same story and Mehrjui was forced to make another conservative movie, SHIRAK in 1988, a film that the maestro did not like it either. Another turning point if Dariush Mehrjui’s film career is HAMOON (which together with THE COW) are at the top of any film polling in Iran. Though, not well received outside Iran, HAMOON, a psychological drama, is a cult movie in Iranian cinema who has formed a new generation of film fans and even filmmakers in Iran. Mehrjui said that he was under impact of Sadegh Hedayat’s THE BLIND OWL and the character of Hamid Hamoon, played by legendary Khosrow Shakibai, is an archetype for any Iranian cinema fans and all know that Hamid Hamoon is indeed the story of Dariush Mehjui’s himself. Needless to say that Dariush Mehjui has created the highest number of film characters, comparing the other Iranian filmmakers. Following the great success of HAMOON, Mehrjui directed his next film BANOO (The Lady) with Bita Farrahi (lead actress of HAMOON who passed away few days ago!), a free adaptation on Luis Bunuel’s VIRIDIANA which was very overtly a metaphor of the current regime and again was banned for 9 years!! He then started his feministic trilogy, SARA (1993), PARI (1995) and LEILA (1996) and then THE PEAR TREE in 1998, all well received at home and abroad, especially SARA and LEILA. His next films, MIX (2000), TO STAY ALIVE (2002, screened in Cannes), MUM’S GUEST (2004, a comedy) and SANTOURI (2007) which was a very popular film at the time of screening at the Fajr Film Festival, but later again banned and it totally changed the life of the author. The pirated copies of the films were released illegally in Iran and abroad and Dariush Mehrjui’s film career was eventually changed after such shocking experience. He made another five feature films, after SANTOURI, but the films were not that much well received by the critics at home. Dariush Mehrjui was trying to avoid the mad society, like his friend Abbas Kiarostami, resorted to nature and lived in a villa far from Tehran. Though, looking for the reason of life, death and existence, like the characters of all his films, he’s was still optimistic and active. Mr. Nehrjui was an influential filmmaker who has been influenced the cultural development and growth of his society more than any other contemporary artists in Iran.

- Written by Mohammad Atebbai


Supriya Suri's Interview with Muhiddin Muzaffar

Director Muhiddin Muzaffar (1) 2 Min

1. I entered the cinema through the theatre. I was an actor in our local theatre called Kanibadam, named after Tuhfa Fozilova. After working for five years, I decided to do a theatre director course. I graduated with honors and became a director. We successfully staged performances at international festivals.


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