A Sensitive Iranian Portrait of Breakdown and Uplift


Deserted Station, Alireza Raisian’s delicately compelling feature, is based on a story by Abbas Kiarostami, that most celebrated of Iranian directors. A Tehran woman (Leila Hatami) is traveling with her photographer husband (Nezam Manouchehri) on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Mashad. Their car breaks down, leaving them stranded near a remote desert village filled with elderly women and children; all the men, except for one, have migrated to the city for work. The sole remaining adult male (Mehran Rajabi) acts as the town’s schoolteacher, barber, and car mechanic when he’s not busy campaigning (unsuccessfully) for a seat in parliament. Kiarostami’s signature themes are abundant here. The cosmopolitan urbanites, relatively helpless without their vehicle, imbibe the poetic, mystical force of their rural hosts’ beliefs as well as their can-do practicality. And the children, though impoverished and forgotten by the world at large, have much to teach the woman, who spends her day among them, their urgent needs distracting her from a private sense of loss. Under Raisian’s sensitive direction, these stories are revealed slowly, using indirect visual cues and making the most of the location’s unearthly beauty. Hardcore Kiarostami devotees may miss the master’s harsher clarity, but Hatami, best known for her starring role in Dariush Mehrjui’s Leila, makes her character’s inner transformation both subtle and palpable.