There Is No Evil – And There Is No Right Choice

The main theme of the Berlinale 2020 winning film There Is No Evil (2020) is the death penalty in Iran. It has been applied under Sharia law since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Capital punishment in Iran is imposed for various crimes, from murder to blasphemy and anti-state activities, and hundreds of people are executed every year in the country.

by Sandra Kuznetsova


Until now, Iranian directors were only interested in the experiences of the condemned ones, not in the fate of the performers. There Is No Evil, on the contrary, focuses on the fate of people who are faced with the fact that they need to kill another person. The reasons why the sentences were handed down are not important. We can only guess about the political background in one of the stories, but it doesn't matter in the other three ones.
The film consists of four short stories. The first, which gave the name to the entire film, is the most dramatically successful – we do not know until the very end (unless, of course, we have read the description of the film), what will resolve the family routine that we are watching. The other three novels are about soldiers who make their own choices, but in the end, whether they decide to obey orders or not, the outcome is the same. Regardless of their choice, their future lives will be ruined. Those who refuse to comply with the order, at best expect a secret life in exile without documents, at worst – an extension of service, a tribunal, a similar sentence.
The fact that the film consists of four separate stories is also due to the fact that the director Mohammad Rasulof is in disgrace in the government. He is banned from leaving Iran: after his return from the Cannes film festival in 2017, the authorities said that he posed a threat to national security, took away his passport and banned him from working for life. The film was shot illegally; it is safer to secretly shoot short episodes in different locations and with different actors than one large-scale film. At the award ceremony, the Golden Bear was received by his daughter Baran, who lives in Germany and starred in the last story.

The film may seem a little long and sometimes contains unnecessary explanations of circumstances, but it is definitely acute-social. However, it seems that the practice of attracting conscripts to carry out the death penalty in Iran now does not exist – it seems like it was in the past, but then it was canceled. The creators of the film at a press conference insisted that the film is feature, but without real facts at the heart of film problematics looks at least artificial.
The Berlinale jury made a political choice rather than an aesthetic one, and awarded the Golden Bear to a film that was not the most interesting, but correct.
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