Fireworks Wednesday (2006)
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Opens March 16 at Film Forum
Fireworks Wednesday is the third film Asghar Farhadi has directed, although it is the fourth of his films to come out in the United States—after A Separation, The Past, and About Elly—his fifth, sixth, and third, released here in that order. This shuffled chronology, I want to suggest, is not unlike the plot of a Farhadi film, in which each divulged bit of information forces the audience, and the characters, to reevaluate what they thought they understood. Again and again, we ask: who is this person—spouse, parent, servant—really?
Farhadi’s work suggests that this question is not only inarticulate, but beside the point. In Fireworks Wednesday, set on the eve of the Persian New Year, and traditionally celebrated with fire—bonfires, firecrackers, and in this case, minor explosions behind closed doors—a young bride, Rouhi, and her fiancé drive into Tehran, to work. Rouhi (Taraneh Alidoosti) is sent by a temp agency to clean the large, expensive, open-plan apartment of Mojdeh (Hedieh Tehrani) and Morteza (Hamid Farrokhnezhad)—a duty she splits with another, very pregnant worker, whom Mojdeh orders around blithely while wandering through her own home like a tear-streaked wraith. She’s quarreling with Morteza about the affair she believes he’s is having with their neighbor, a divorcée who runs a beauty salon. Morteza, enraged, has punched a hole through the window, and he’s not through yet. The constant in this sad equation is their young son, waiting at school to be picked up by the cleaning woman.
Glass and plastic, in this film, are not yet the screens sundering the warring couple in A Separation; instead, plastic sheets cover the apartment’s walls, as though the contours of their situation are not yet precisely clear to either party. Is Morteza, in fact, unfaithful? He swears he’s not, but deception is the mechanism of Farhadi’s films, and unlike the woefully placid The Past, it’s present onscreen here. The servant, the parent, the husband and the wife—Farhadi sets all them to balletic motion. And though he reconfigures these basic elements in each subsequent film, what remains are his characters’ tenuous connections to one another, their precisely miscalculated attempts to stand—securely—still.