Hamsaran-e Haj-Abba (Haj-Abbas' Wives)

International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam 2001
Hamsaran-e Haj-Abba (Haj-Abbas' Wives)
© Cima Film, Cima Media International
photos courtesy of IDFA 2001
This film is a fascinating portrait of the excruciatingly painful co-existence of two older Iranian women who were once married to the same man as well being as a terribly humorous tour de force featuring this unforgettable and grotesque twosome.

The second wife constantly harps on about her female companion's every action, ranging from the best way to wash dishes through the best hour to eat lunch to the proper method to prepare soup. The responsibility for a broken bowl has never been forgotten and the true ownership of the bowl remains an unresolved moot point. The first wife, longest removed from the marital bed, endures most of the verbal abuse she receives in silence, but has certain moments when even she manages to venture into the realm of a subtly evoked revenge.

IDFA 2001
At their advanced age, neither can walk very well; one hobbles up stairs while the other crawls and drags herself along floors. Long ago, when Haj-abbas' first wife didn't grace him with a child, the husband decided to take a second wife in order to have a son. Only when she, as well, did not produce an heir was it indisputable that Haj-abbas was the sterile party. More than two decades after his death, these two women still share their large and nearly empty domain like two aging harpies constantly picking away at each other during their final days.

The horrifying absurdity of their situation and the senselessness of their rivalry become increasingly highlighted through the simplicity of their surroundings and the directness of the camera work. They are two beings trapped within the emptiness of a shallow and oddly existential world. Despite all this, their situation manages to frequently evoke laughter from the onlooker.

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