Director: Babak Anvari
Screenplay: Babak Anvari
Starring: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi, Ray Haratian, Arash Marandi
Country: UK, Jordan, Qatar
Running Time: 84 min
Under The Shadow is a ghost story with a strong social comment. It was a big hit at Sundance 2016 as the UK’s Foreign Language submission to the Academy Awards. The story takes place during the Iran-Iraq war. Thought to be the longest conventional war of the twentieth century. The hostilities escalate into a strategical bombing campaign on both sides. The on-going conflict leads to a climate of fear on many levels for all in the region.
Stark industrial imagery introduces Under The Shadow giving a clue to its dark content. Genuine footage of the war adds to the gloomy atmosphere. Shideh (Narges Rashidid) attends a meeting organised by her university and is told that under no circumstances will she be able to complete her studies. During the meeting buildings are being bombed around the university. She drives home now aware that she is unable to complete medical school. This is a hard time in late 1980’s Tehran, Shideh is forced out of medical school as a result of her political views. She returns home to discard her medical books, she must now try to find a new path in life.
Shideh’s husband Iraj (Bobby Naderi) has to leave his family to help with the war effort. As the war envelopes daily life, the air raids close in on their apartment. Their neighbours leave the city in search of safety while Shideh and her daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) stay. Iraj would like Shideh and Dorsa to stay somewhere safer but as they won’t leave, he promises that Dorsa’s doll Kimia will look after her.
A mysterious boy moves into the area causing further distress to Shideh and Dorsa. When they are bombed, he whispers to Dorsa and gives her a charm so she can protect herself. The boy has told Dorsa the story of the djinn, unimpressed Shideh throws the protective charm away. When Shideh visits the boy’s family she finds out that the boy has not spoken since his parents were killed. Shideh begins to have bad dreams while Dorsa falls ill and suffers the same disturbed nights. Kimia goes missing, Dorsa is sure her doll has not been lost; but has been taken.
Dorsa continually tries to get to the top floor to look for her lost doll. The bombing starts again and one of the neighbours dies. When the daughter of the dead neighbour speaks to Shideh she insists her father was terrified to death by an apparition. As more neighbours leave to escape the war, Shideh discovers that a djinn may posses a human. She also finds out that a djinn will steal items from a person it wants to possess. Eventually Shideh and Dorsa are the only two in the building. Shideh’s nightmares worsen and now her belongings start to vanish, Shideh fears a djinn is to blame.
Shideh and Dorsa both see the same terrifying visions and realise the shocking entities are real and not imagined. Dorsa believes the manifestation is helping her find Kimia. Shideh now wants to leave the flat but Dorsa won’t leave until she finds Kimia. The horrors of the djinn’s terror campaign escalate to a final traumatic conclusion of nightmarish images.
Under The Shadow by Iranian director Babak Anvari is certainly a provocative film. It’s elegant with fine acting to support an enthralling story. This atmospheric tale is one of utter desperation under an oppressive regime, trapped in a desolate reality haunted by petrifying demons. This feature packed Limited Edition box set from Second Sight contains more than a horror film. It also explores the difficulties of family life in a war-zone and the lack of freedom and equality that come with it.
The Under the Shadow Limited Edition Blu-ray is released on the 10th February 2020 courtesy of Second Sight Films. The disc I reviewed was of excellent quality with crisp audio and visuals.
- Two & Two – Babak Anvari’s BAFTA Award nominated short film
- Escaping The Shadow: a new interview with director Babak Anvari
- Within the Shadow: a new interview with actor Narges Rashidi
- Forming the Shadow: a new interview with producers Lucan Toh and Oliver Roskill
- Shaping the Shadow: a new interview with cinematographer Kit Fraser
- A new audio commentary with Babak Anvari and Jamie Graham
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
- Limited Edition of 2,000
- Rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Christopher Shy
- Soft cover book with new essays by Jon Towlson and Daniel Bird plus behind-the-scenes photos and concept illustrations
- Poster featuring new artwork
A comprehensive stack of extras robustly supports this fine film and adds to the interest of this nicely produced release. Making this definitely worth your time, with a calming djinn and tonic to settle your shattered nerves.