February 21, 2002

Cornell Cinema

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The sad love story of Djomeh is well told, not merely by virtue of its plot or action, but also by the stunning vistas of the Iranian landscape that inhabit each shot. Although the plot line is dull by most measures, the film is best described as introspective and understated in its message. Its title character is a young refugee from Afghanistan with an affinity for the optimistic and philosophical.

An unassuming milk man by profession, Djomeh leads a rather dull and laborious existence on the barren plains of Iran. However, Djomeh takes refuge in the ruminations of his own heart and its grandiose notions of true love. His occupation with all things cupid is comparable to that of the classic lover, Romeo, of Shakespeare’s making. He is hopelessly and blindly in love with love itself.

Djomeh’s unrealistic preoccupation with finding such an idealized form of true love begins to manifest itself as a sort of pathology through the course of the film. As his circumstances begin to degenerate, the viewer is left rather weary. It is difficult to understand how Djomeh could possibly endure through such hardship on the hope of love alone.

The viewer gains insight into Djomeh’s history through the philosophical conversations shared between himself and his employer, Mr. Mahmoud, during their long car trips to buy milk from the local towns. Through several of these intimate scenes, Djomeh describes a failed love affair between himself and a widower much older than he, which forced him to flee his native land in the interest of sparing his family any shame.

Of course, Djomeh’s accounts leave room for doubt as it becomes increasingly apparent that he has a very romantic nature and may tend to romanticize reality. This is understandable as the viewer bears witness to the harshness of Djomeh’s life. He is beaten and abused by his superiors on the farm, namely his uncle with whom he left Afghanistan. In short, Djomeh is the next step up from the cows in the hierarchy of Iranian farm life.

As can be expected, Romeo finds his so-called Juliet in the image of a quiet, Moslem girl who works at her father’s grocery. They never speak, but Djomeh is certain that he has found true love and soon decides that he must marry her. A quick twist enters the plot at the end of this delusional love story, but the finale is vaguely executed and only mildly intriguing. It is anti-climactic at best.

However, the overt plot of Djomeh is arguably of lesser importance when compared to its more latent merits. The plot-related destinations of the film fade in importance to the pictorial settings framed in the car window as Djomeh and his employer engage in the meatiest dialogue of the film. It is not the color or overall intricacy of the landscape that renders it beautiful. It is the texture and form of the Iranian mountains, hills, and plains that haunt the background of each scene that almost overcome the lackluster action.

It is through the aesthetization of the Iranian frontier that the viewer comes to learn what the love story of this off-beat film fully encompasses. What seems to be the major crux of the film, Djomeh’s unrequited love for a grocer’s daughter, takes a back seat to the true love affair between an expatriate and his new found homeland. Just as Djomeh is slowly captivated by the physicality of Iran, so is the viewer thanks to a carefully focused camera that seems to sweetly gaze upon its barren beauty.

Archived article by Laura Thomas