Mohsen Makhmalbaf | Marriage of the Blessed | Kandahar

Classic Film and Television Home Page

Mohsen Makhmalbaf

Mohsen Makhmalbaf is a film director.

Marriage of the Blessed

Marriage of the Blessed (1989) is a drama that takes place in modern-day Tehran, among educated people.


The film shows imagery in common with Gabbeh (1995). Both films are full of "created images" that interact with and illustrate the action: photographs, films, and billboards in Marriage of the Blessed, woven carpets in Gabbeh. The creators of the images are the major characters in the story, and are generally more sympathetic than the people in the films who do not create images. These non-creators try to oppose the romances of the creators, in both works. And by similar means: bride's family tries to prevent her marriage.

Both films have fruit imagery: pomegranate seeds in Marriage of the Blessed, apples in Gabbeh. The presence of this fruit makes one wonder if Makhmalbaf has seen and been influenced by Sergei Paradjanov's The Color of Pomegranates (1969). The folk ethos of Gabbeh also recalls Paradjanov's film.

Horror imagery in both films is associated with images without color: white in Marriage of the Blessed, black in Gabbeh. The white in the earlier film is associated with an asylum, and loss of reason; black is the color of death in the later work. There are also all-white shots of snow covered desert in the later death sequences of Gabbeh.

By contrast, life is full of color in both works. The colored cloths on the cart at the start of Marriage of the Blessed, recall the many colored fabrics and clothes in Gabbeh.

A young man stands on a man's back to give him a massage in Marriage of the Blessed, people stand on carpets in water to wash them in Gabbeh.

Round soap bubbles float through the air in Marriage of the Blessed, an egg appears in Gabbeh.

There are sinister long shots of tanks and people around them in Marriage of the Blessed, benevolent shots of the nomads on the move in Gabbeh. Both kinds of shots are composed similarly: we see large groups of people, stretched out from the left to right of the frame, fairly evenly spaced along its length.

A document is submerged under spilled light-blue ink in Marriage of the Blessed, there are many shots of carpets under water in Gabbeh.

Camera Movement

Marriage of the Blessed is full of complex camera movement. These are usually linked to architecture, including the shots down hospital corridors at the start, and the classic shots that move through the photographer's studio. The shots along the balconies at the fortune teller's apartment building are also architectural.



Kandahar (2001) shows similar characters as The Apple (1999), which Mohsen Makhmalbaf also scripted. Male characters in both films are endlessly obsessive, tradition oriented, religiously fanatical, sexist, whiny, and full of self pity. Nothing anyone can say can talk them out of their beliefs. They have already made up their mind about what they believe and what they are going to do, and nobody can change their mind. They have absolutely no common sense. They behave it ways that are obviously stupid, both to the audience and the other characters, yet their religious world views tell them that this is the "way things are supposed to be", to quote a member of America's own fanatical Right. Ideology has triumphed over normal good sense. Their self pity, confronted with a world that does not meet their specifications, is total, and they are utterly incapable of feeling any concern for others. These men are very difficult to take. One suspects that Makhmalbaf is holding a satirical mirror up to his male contemporaries, and showing them their attitudes and behavior.

By contrast, the women in his films are often highly modern people. They have enlightened attitudes, are well educated, and behave according to a modern civilized code of conduct. They also put practical plans into place to help others. These women include the social worker in The Apple, and the Red Cross workers and the journalist heroine of Kandahar. They present ideas in which the audience is typically in sympathy, and they seem "normal". Despite all this, they have an extremely tough time getting anybody to listen to their ideas or approaches.

Kandahar is a deeply impressive picture politically. Few modern films have been so concerned to bring a social tragedy to people's attention.

Links to Gabbeh

Kandahar resembles Gabbeh (1996). Both are sociological studies of another world. Both look at folk traditions. The finale of Kandahar, showing an Afghan wedding party, is especially close to Gabbeh. Like Gabbeh, it shows a colorful, joyous traditional ceremony, with music and visual spectacle. Both films center on women; both show them wearing brilliantly colored clothes. The finale of Kandahar is much more ironical: these happy women are soon stopped and persecuted by the Taliban.


Technological stuff is always popping up in Makhmalbaf's films. They fascinate the heroines of the movies. The little girls in The Apple want to buy a watch; here the heroine has a tape recorder. Both of these devices help extend the heroines' minds outward - the journalist in Kandahar can record her thoughts, and the sounds around her; the little girls can know the time. The doctor in Kandahar laments that the only modern devices in Afganistan are weapons; these are also the only devices men seem to have any interest in. There is also the photographer heroine of Marriage of the Blessed.