Thursday, June 24, 2021

Rahman Milani | Stille landskap

portrait of an outsider

by Douglas Messerli

Rahman Milani (screenwriter and director) Stille landskap / 2003

 I must admit that the Norwegian film, Stille landskap was my very first LGBTQ film entirely in Farsi—and without English language subtitles. Directed by Rahman Milani, this starkly photographed tale presents, through a straightforward presentation of images, the story of an Iranian teenage boy (Homayon Hamzeloee), living in a rural Norwegian community with a family who have obviously emigrated to Norway, who has fallen in love with a Norwegian school mate (Georg Lyngved).

      The two evidently meet up in the Norwegian boy’s home to hang out together, share their love of art, and enjoy one another’s bodies, never imagining that without a closed curtain a neighbor, another Iranian immigrant, might be observing their lovely kisses.

     When the boy’s family finds out, he is severely beaten by his father, despite the pleas of the mother to stop. And the last several frames of this 8 minute short—produced by Frank Mosvold, several of whose LGBTQ films I have previously reviewed—concern the boy readying himself in the middle of the night to escape, ending in a long train ride across the snow-covered landscape until he arrives in the city, presumably Oslo. What he might do there and how he might possibly survive is not explored. One can only conjure up images of another outsider youth stalking the streets of the Norwegian capitol, Knut Hamsun’s starving young would-be journalist in his 1890 fiction Hunger. Through the strains of the film’s music we also even get a hint of another world-traveling Norwegian wanderer, Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. We can only wonder whether his story might also end on taking an even longer voyage in order to find safe haven.

      If this film’s narrative seems almost too pared-down to represent any complexity about Milani’s story, in its images of the frozen landscape and homelife violence, it fully brings to life the painful isolation of its central figure.

     Yet I would like to know where this young man’s suffering leads, to discover what possible solutions a queer has in a world in which he is a kind of double-outsider, both politically/religiously and sexually. Is there any haven available to him within Norway’s relatively small, like-minded population? Is there even any respite elsewhere in the world?  If there was ever a universal symbol of loneliness it lies in the face of this young kid.

Los Angeles, June 24, 2021

Reprinted from My Queer Cinema blog and World Cinema Review (June 2021).

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