Review: There Is No Evil – Sheytan vojud nadarad (2020)


There Is No Evil – Sheytan vojud nadarad (2020)

Directed by: Mohammad Rasoulof | 151 minutes | drama | Actors: Baran Rasoulof, Mohammad Seddighimehr, Zhila Shahi, Mohammad Valizadegan, Mahtab Servati, Kaveh Ahangar, Pouya Mehri, Salar Khamseh, Shaghayegh Shourian, Reza Bahrami, Ehsan Mirhosseini, Alireza Parahine, Kairiehparabeli, Geiriteh Parabeli, Pejvak Imani

‘There Is No Evil’ is the new film from director Mohammad Rasoulof. His film won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2020. After ‘A Separation’ (2011) and ‘Taxi’ (2015), this is the third Iranian film to win the coveted prize in ten years. A real advance of contemporary Iranian cinema, you could say. And yet Mohammad Rasoulof was not there to receive his own Golden Bear. He was detained in Iran because his passport was confiscated by the authorities.

Rasoulof’s socially critical films have been a thorn in the side of the Iranian regime for years, but since his film ‘Manuscripts Don’t Burn’ (2013) he has been banned from leaving the country at all. His work is considered propagandistic and dangerous, with the result that his entire oeuvre is banned in Iran. However, Rasoulof is not easily silenced. He still secretly makes movies. With ‘There Is No Evil’ he once again tackles an extremely controversial and sensitive subject: the death penalty.

This time not a linear narrative by the Iranian filmmaker, but an anthology film of four different stories. In terms of narration, all stories are united only by the setting and main theme, while the tone and atmosphere differ fundamentally from story to story. If you consider that many other anthology films have limitations, namely a lack of character depth and tension, you can conclude that Rasoulof succeeds in his first attempt at this film style.

The pitfalls of the anthology film are avoided for the most part in ‘There Is No Evil’. Rasoulof does not waste a second with his film and always aims for originality and creativity. Where many other films in the genre complicate the viewing experience due to the constant new investment of the viewer, this is not the case with ‘There Is No Evil’. Each premise is so captivating, each performance so unique, and each storyline so compelling, there’s almost no boredom in the 151-minute film.

It’s remarkable how incredibly gracefully Rasoulof jumps back and forth between tragic, romantic and haunting notes, giving each segment a gripping unpredictability from the start. In combination with the beautiful cinematography, talented actors and attention to detail, ‘There Is No Evil’ has become a successful film. It is hoped that Rasoulof can continue making these kinds of films for a long time to come. A talent like him should be cherished.