Sunday 29 November 2020

Home - Criticism - Salvation in Negative Matter: A Look at the Short Film “Umbra” directed by Saeed Jafarian

24Frames: As to celebrate the premiere of the short film “Umbra” directed by Saeed Jafarian on Vimeo Staff Picks Premiere, we read a translation of Navid Noori’s note on the concepts behind this successful film. Umbra has taken part in many prestigious film festivals around the world, like Cannes Film Festival, AFI fest, Toronto International Film Festival, and many more. You can now watch Umbra on Vimeo Staff Picks Premieres by clicking here.



Salvation in Negative Matter

Written by: Navid Noori 


After coming out from the shower, the woman realizes that her husband is not at home, rushes after him, and in the middle of the night, walks into the dark heart of the streets. The story is simple and we’re not going to face any particular complications. Instead, the film wants the audience to have an active mind to participate in making the film. Saeed Jafarian packs the film with gaps that force the audience’s mind to choose; Gaps that do not ultimately lead to a structural void in the film, the film says everything that needs to be said.


“Umbra” is the narrative of returning to the concept of evil, a praise of the dark sides and the negativity. From the first shots, the bright and positive world of women is portrayed as dark and imprisoned. Although the steam of the bath is probably a sign for us to enter the imaginary world of the woman, but on the other hand, it’s a reminder of a space where breathing can be difficult. Shortly afterward, the director’s emphasis on showing a moth trapped in a light bulb tells us that we were not wrong. The back and forth sequence of the shots between the woman’s gaze and the moth in the first minutes of the film is to bring the woman closer to the situation of being captive. The brightness of the lamp is the thing that draws the creature in need of light, which eventually results in it being trapped, turning the light-seeking creature into a dark silhouette in the light, which is the source of disturbance in the status quo.


Light is a deterrent, a deterrent of darkness, so to be separated from the house and its light is to go to darkness, where the deterrent (light) is not able to deal with the darkness.


It is precisely a matter of entering the darkness and coming out of the bubble from the heart of light, to be liberated from the shackles, and to fly freely in the dark. The woman is liberated walking through the darkness, where her desire begins to live freely by seeing a man who freely proposes her the object of desire. It does not matter if he is really a man of darkness or just an imaginary embodiment of her desire; The man is the gateway to liberation.


Liberation will happen to the woman only when she comes out of her light bubble once, and step into absolute darkness. Crossing the darkness is the only way to her salvation, she who is doomed to not see the darkness.


One of the best parables is the empty, all-encompassing house that the man suggests the woman goes there with him, and where he eventually chooses to wait. If the woman did not go to the street and darkness, she would never find such a bright place, the bright place where her object of desire awaits her, the thing that makes her doubt at the last moment of the film. The possibility of free choice, which is derived from walking into the heart of darkness.


“Umbra” is a praise of evil to gain freedom, a praise of everything that frees us from the lights where we are trapped, a praise of every negative thing that divides the heart of the cause and brings disorder. This disorder in the current situation allows us to radically change, the possibility that arises for the woman in the story.


Jafarian‘s cinema may seem like a simple cinema in “Umbra” that intends to express a simple narrative, but the film ties personal matters to more general ones, with the same simple techniques and decoupage that many others could possibly have done. Jafarian has turned the whole simple and minimal world of his film into his own narrative form.



Translated by Raha Amirfazli


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