Reviews Short Narrative

Faces without Visage (2019) – 4 stars

Director: Hesam Rahmani

Writer: Saeed Aminabadi

Cast: Saeed Aminabadi, Golzar Torkamanha, Hasan Rahmani

Running time: 8 mins

According to the World Health Organisation, every year, there are nearly 10 million new cases of dementia, globally. With ageing populations in most of the world’s largest nations, this is set to increase dramatically in the years to come. Sooner or later, then, almost every family comes to know what it is like to deal with a loved one suffering from the disease.

As a result, dementia – and the sorrow surrounding dementia patients’ relatives – has become a recurring subject in arts and blockbuster cinema. Hesam Rahmani’s Faces without Visage touches upon this topic in a very poetic, yet minimalistic, way.

The narrator starts from at the beginning of his life’s events: describing the wedding day of his parents, before taking us through a photo journey. He briefly imagines what brought the couple to that point; was it a smile his mother (also referred to as woman) gave away when crossing paths with his father (man)? Acknowledging the lack of smile on the woman’s face in the pictures, the narrator then wonders if this happily-ever-after ending decided for them.

Either way, the narrator’s birth is an important milestone in everyone’s lives, and it brings the smiles up again, with him recognising joyful faces in the pictures. At this point, he shifts the weight of his narrative from the seemingly unhappy woman to the man. He describes how the man starts forgetting his life purpose and his involvement in the narrator’s life. It seems as if the woman’s face is the only one the man recognises, until that also becomes a blurry memory. The man cannot remember the woman’s smile anymore.

As sweet and touching as it is, it is difficult to describe this as a “film.” Perhaps “art installation” would fit it better. Visually speaking, we keep revisiting the same photos again and again and again. As we are talking about a “film collage” rather than an actual film, this attribute may make the viewer feel bored. Finally, the almost childish visual effects take away a bit of the film’s weight, halting the viewer’s emotional journey and write a bit of the film’s elevated feel off.

In spite of this, the storytelling is excellent: there is a clear beginning, middle and a climactic ending – as we find out that this is actually the story of the narrator’s family and that he is taking a hit because of his father’s disease. The film managed to touch a soft spot for me and, I will not lie, it left me weeping. The film is on-point in terms of its pacing too. Had the film been a little bit longer, it would have exhausted the viewer.

Overall, Faces without Visage is the proof that a filmmaker does not need a ridiculously big production to touch the audience and to pass a meaningful massage across.

In the end, Faces without Visage definitely fulfils its goals: it takes us through a tough, emotional and personal journey. It brings out empathy without making a melodrama of things, and while it is minimalistic, it remains an unquestionably a descent, professional effort.

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