Ali Abassi’s Holy Spider portrays one of Iran’s most notorious serial killers in a critique of the ultra-religious Iranian society that endorsed these feminicides in a holy city.
Cannes Film Festival 2022: Ali Abassi‘s Holy Spider is one of the most powerful and electrifying films of the 75th Cannes Film Festival. As much for its American-style thriller mechanics as for the director’s ability to make us live through anxious nights in search of a relentless serial killer, who does not kill for pleasure but for a religious motive. David Cronenberg‘s new opus Crimes of The Future questions us in a dark atmosphere about our responsibility in future events that could lead to disturbing biological mutations.
Dark Crimes of the Future
After winning the Special Jury Prize at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival for Crash, David Cronenberg continues his exploration of the human body in an agonising and monstrous way with Crimes of the Future. We are at a turning point in human history, and several questions arise: can the human body evolve to solve problems we have created? As the human species adapts to a synthetic environment, the human body is subject to new transformations and mutations.
The nights in Mashhad, holy web
Watching Holy Spider by Ali Abassi, an Iranian filmmaker who has emigrated to Denmark, it is hard to believe that this film was shot in Iran. Indeed, it was shot in Amman, Jordan, but still transports us to the narrow world of the Islamic Republic of Iran, where the role of women is decidedly subaltern. And this pitiful role is not only accepted but also promoted, proof of the terrible alienation imposed by a macho society that loves its submissive women. No wonder that serial murders of prostitutes go unpunished in the city of Imam Reza’s mausoleum. Until the arrival from Tehran of a tenacious journalist, Rahimi (Zar Amir Ebrahimi), who will go across the suburbs of ill repute of this ultra-conservative spiritual centre in search of the truth.
Outcast from an ultra-religious society
After the very original Gräns (Border), which brought him the Un Certain regard prize in 2018, Ali Abbasi takes us to the heart of the investigation into a series of feminicides involving prostitutes, who are strangled in the holy city of Mashhad, the city housing the mausoleum of Imam Reza. Considered “impure”, these women steal the husbands of honest women and are ostracized by an ultra-religious society, to the point that even their parents disown them. The script is inspired by real events: in 2001, Saeed Hanaei murdered sixteen prostitutes claiming to purify the city of its sins in the name of Islam. His trial caused a stir and he was considered a hero by the most conservative part of society. “I didn’t set out to make a serial killer film. Instead, I wanted to make a film about a society that has become a serial killer,” Ali Abbasi says.
Fulfilling a religious duty
Saeed Hanaei (Mehdi Bajestani) was a very religious man, a mason, a good husband and father, a citizen above suspicion. After harrowing scenes of murder and the search for the killer, Ali Abassi also shows how some of the more conservative public and media praised Hanaei, turning him into a hero whose release the public demanded, convinced that he had only fulfilled his religious duty, a “duty” to wipe off the streets of these “unclean” women. This gripping thriller about the condition of women in Iran is more relevant than ever in an Iran where, despite the militant and feminist actions of two Iranian lawyers Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2003, and Nasrin Sotoudeh, Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2012, women still live in the shadows and the forbidden.
The Red Carpet of Crimes of the Future
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