The Apple (1998)

“Using a real-life family as both actor and subject, Makhmalbaf captures on film a fictional reality of two children first entering society at the age of twelve at the same time that the real-life children were first engaging with the world outside their home.”

‘The Apple’, directed by Samira Makhmalbaf in 1998, is an Iranian drama about two daughters who are effectively kept prisoner by their father and blind mother. Their neighbours become aware of them and complain to the authorities, concerned that the girls are having problems speaking and seem to be suffering from other developmental problems. It’s a film that, unlike any other, blurs the lines between reality and fiction. Makhmalbaf set out to present a documentary focusing on the rehabilitation of the girls and the films starts as such using a video camera. When the girls return home, however, the director switches to a 35mm camera (she had been unable to afford on until then) and from that point, the film is rich with allegorical symbolism and subtexts. Makhmalbaf ‘casts’ the real participants in the events in her film, and this gives the production an emotional rawness but, surprisingly, doesn’t inhibit the humour that runs through. The title of the film refers to a repeated motif of an apple, a clear symbol of cautious freedom, but also an object of desire. Again, the improvised nature of the film makes this satisfying symbolism all the more miraculous. It’s a film that says much about the lack of freedom in Iran, but it particularly comments on the place of women and children in the country in the 1990s, and this is relayed through Makhmalbaf’s presentation of the two girls and the true prisoner, their blind mother.

Would I recommend it? It’s a powerful but personal movie that, like Jafar Panahi’s ‘The White Balloon’ manages to be both politically subversive and domestically witty at the same time.

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