Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Film Review: The Interim Husband (Mohallel)

from shahrgon.com
2 weeks ago I found time to watch the movie Mohallel (in English The Interim Husband). When I was a kid I was reading a book from my dad's library which I can't remember the title now but I remember in one page the author mentioned the film Mohallel and referred to the chastity belt in it. The name of the film remained in my mind since then. I used to think it's an overly sexualized film or a documentary-like movie about suppressing women in domestic environments. But no matter how many reviews you read you won't know about a movie until you watch it yourself. Luckily I found the film online on Youtube. This is a black and white 1971 comedy. Simple as that. It will make you laugh and at the same time makes the viewer pay attention to an Islamic law about divorcing women.

Nosrat Karimi in the movie Mohallel
The main character of the film is a middle-aged man with traditional and religious beliefs. He works in Tehran's Bazaar and has a shop there. He lives with his wife and their maid along with their kids in a traditional Iranian old house made of many rooms and a big yard with a pool in it. They have 3 kids: one young girl, a teenage boy and a small baby girl.

His ideas about women and girls are like "women must cover
themselves totally in presence of men" and makes his wife pulls her chador on her face or gives her 3-year-old daughter a chador to wear.  His extreme traditional-religious beliefs are extreme to the point that he doesn't say hello to his neighbour who's a middle-aged man now and  in his youth he wanted to marry his wife. In a scene in a discussion with his brother-in-law about women who runs a divorce and marriage office he says if a woman cheats on you then you can simply divorce her and send her back to her father's house and the disgrace will be for the woman's family not for you but if your daughter gets into acts with men then you have to kill the girl yourself because you are the family of the unmarried girl and the disgrace will be for you! This guy also has anger management issues and when he gets angry he starts beating his wife and children. However when he's calm he's kind and nice to his family.

His neighbour has a young son who's in love with this extremely traditional man's daughter and wanting to marry her but the dad refuses to go and ask the girl's hand for marriage from her father because of that old revenge he has of him. One night the girl and young man are talking romantically on the roof of their house while suddenly her father arrives and sees two shadows on his house roof. Being mad he rushes into the house and starts shouting and beating everyone demanding to know who was that woman on the roof talking to a stranger man. His wife (named Shamsi in this movie) knows that if he finds out it was the daughter he might do something tragic to the girl out of anger so she lies and says it was her because she had heard the husband said the woman who cheats on her man should only be divorced. The man collapses in disbelief and when he gets concious he tells her to leave the house to her father's house and he'll divorce her soon.

Next day we see the scene of the house sunk in sadness and silence and the children eating their food in a
Nosrat Karimi and Irene Zazians
room away from their father because they can't forgive him for divorcing their mum. The middle-aged maid also refuses to do housework neatly and organisedly in revenge of losing her mistress as she likes her so much. The movie goes on till the man realises he made a mistake to divorce his wife out of anger and discovers that she's innocent so he goes back to get her to the house again and re-marry her. In the divorce and marriage office he realises that he has divorced his wife 3 times and can't remarry her till the wife goes and marry another man and then gets divorce from that man according to Islam's laws. Shouting in the office who did that to him and the office clerks tells him he was so angry that day that he himself ordered the clerk to divorce her 3 times. Not being able to accept this disgrace he starts looking for someone disabled or from far areas to marry his wife and quickly divorce her so no one in the neighbourhood and his workplace knows what has happened.

The search for that interim husband starts and these are the funniest parts of the film. The neighbour man who used to be the wife's suitor finds a chance to be the interim husband then refuses to divorce the woman because now he has the winning card and wants to take revenge from her husband who refused to say hello to him all these years. The husband tries all the ways he can so the neighbour who's now the husband of his ex-wife not to sleep with her. He send her small daughter to sleep there with them. Orders his son to knock at their door and run away. Gives his wife a pair of underwear made of iron and lock and gives it to the wife so she locks it and the man can't do anything in bed to her. So funny! You will have a good laughter all throughout the film and it ends with a happy ending. 

Irene Zazians
This movie was made in Shah's time (the last king of Iran) and was suspended for 3 days after the release but went back to cinemas again. It has been harshly criticized by Ali Motahhari the cleric at that time because he believed the movie showed Islamic laws in a twisted way. The main actress of the film was Irene Zazians the Armenian-Iranian famous actress of that time and the director didn't want to choose a Christian woman for this role as it was a role about a religious wife in a traditional Iranian household but after being disappointed from so many actresses he finally chose her and later said no one could play this role better than Irene. Irene passed away last July after fighting with cancer for long. It was this movie making her more famous and also causing her to lose her job in later years after the 1979 Revolution in Iran. May she rest in peace. 

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