At Five in the Afternoon review

:. Director: Samira Makhmalbaf
:. Starring: Agheleh Rezaie, Abdolgani Yousefrazi
:. Running Time: 1:45
:. Country: Iran
:. Country: USA


After the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the schools again open their doors to girls.

Nogreh (Agheleh Rezaie) dreams of liberation. She wants to become Head of State (following Benazir Bhutto's example), in order to reform the status of the Afghan woman. But the girl and her family only meet misery and desolation in a country in ruins.

This third full-length film by the talented Iranian filmmaker is without question her most pessimistic. It's the prolongation of the segment she directed within the framework of the collective film 11' 09' 01. It also echoes the film Kandahar, directed by her father and which was disparaged for its overly aesthetic approach.

The school, and more particularly the figure of the teacher, constitute recurring motifs in the cinema of Samira Makhmalbaf. The educational reference, which plays the essential role of smuggler, embodies the fight against the obscurantism put in place by the fundamentalists.

A strong act, the women in Makhmalbaf's films are those who hold knowledge and pass it on. The sequence where young women speak in turn during a very animated political debate, translates well the fact that school is the place of democracy.

Beautiful and educated, Nogreh moves around with an uncovered face, raising the sides of her chadrah, away from paternal supervision. On the way to school, the student swaps her burka for a uniform and her worn shoes for a pair of white high heels. This routine has a strong symbolic value. The shoes restore her femininity, hindered by years of fundamentalism, raising her to a condition other than that of a war victim, condemned to a nomadic life. But soon, Nogreh angrily gets rid of them, having no more illusions about her own social advancement and the possibility of raising the spirits of the population in her devastated country.

Makhmalbaf draws up a terrifying portrait of the aftermath of the Taliban regime and makes us see at which point mentalities always carry the deep imprint of religious fanaticism. Several scenes, sometimes furtive, inform us of the prohibitions to which women must yield: to veil themselves in the presence of men who themselves hide if they pass a "naked" face ("tell the pious men to close their eyes "), not to dance to show off their beauty; putting a finger in their mouth to hide their female voice...

Nogreh's father, a worn old man, embodies this extremism. The old man claims that "blasphemy is everywhere in the city ", since the Taliban's fall.

As time goes by we see in the characters a gradual physical and moral degeneration. This is also the subject of Garcia Lorca's poem, which gives its title to the film: "At five in the afternoon (...) beyond that, death and death alone (...)".

Deprived of a roof over their heads, the family tries to gain Kandahar with the few possessions they have. Nogreh's sister can no longer feed her child, who dies silently in the night. The horse collapses of exhaustion and Nogreh's face shuts out any emotion.

Unfortunately, the film finds its limits there. Demonstrative, even complacent, the overly aesthetic propensity for scenes that call for restraint and sobriety is a disservice to the film. Should we see a hint of atavism in Makhmalbaf's approach?

  Sandrine Marques
  Translated into English by Anji Milanovic

     Movie Reviews: 1998 - 2011
     Movie Reviews: 2012 - present

  .: AFI Fest
  .: Cannes Festival
  .: COL COA
  .: LA Film Festival
  .: LA Latino Festival
  .: more Festivals
  .: Cult Classic
  .: Foreign
  .: U.S. Underground
  .: Musical Films
  .: Controversial Films
  .: Silent Films
  .: Spaghetti Westerns
  .: Erotica
  .: Download Movies
  .: Movie Rentals
  .: Movie Trailer
| About Plume Noire | Contacts | Advertising | Submit for review | Help Wanted! | Privacy Policy | Questions/Comments |
| Work in Hollywood | Plume Noire en français [in French] |