Drama. Written and directed by Mohammad Rasoulof. In Persian with English subtitles. (90 minutes.)
This is a potent social allegory from Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, told with humor and a feeling of mystery. Though it's thoroughly grounded in everyday realities, the film achieves a sense of fable.
"Iron Island" portrays a group of squatters who occupy an old Persian Gulf oil tanker, selling scrap metal and whatever oil they can recover from the ship's hold. They live under the guidance of a mostly benevolent tyrant they call the Captain (veteran actor Ali Nassirian).
He's a mixture of tribal elder, ward boss and trailer park manager. But, as we see late in the movie, the Captain also has an Old Testament sense of righteousness and fury. He seems to be everywhere at once, and he has his hands full: the ship is slowly sinking, its owners are threatening to evict everyone, and a rebellious youth (Hossein Farzi-Zadeh) is pursuing a woman over her father's strenuous objections -- a serious and potentially deadly error in Iranian society.
There are scenes with a visual power that's hard to explain: One by one, a dozen or more of the ship's young men tip half-filled oil barrels into the ocean and jump in after them to swim the barrels to shore. Rasoulof also offers openly visionary touches: an old man constantly peers into the distance looking for something unspecified, and a boy catches fish in the vessel's flooded depths, inspects them closely, then tosses them into the ocean.
In the end, the Captain gathers his people to head for a new settlement on land. Rasoulof doesn't offer a big finish or any sort of moral, or even much of a hint as to what the future holds. This ambiguity strikes the right note.
-- Advisory: There is one disturbing scene of physical cruelty.
-- Walter Addiego
codecs video:XVID audio:MPEG-1 Layer 3
pic w/h 576 x 320
frame rate 29 f/s
data rate 132kbps