SIFF 2021: There Is No Evil

There Is No Evil - An interview with director Mohammad Rasoulof - VIFF 2020  - Set The Tape

Mohammad Rasoulof like his filmmaking compatriot Jafar Panahi has been under legal scrutiny by the Iranian government over his films. This trouble has advanced to the point that There Is No Evil had to be shot in secrecy and is banned from screening in Iran. Consisting for four stories containing capital punishment in Iran, the Golden Bear winning film’s controversy in its home country is immediately apparent.

The anthology film contains four stories with state executions near the center. The first is of a man for whom executions have become a part of his everyday job. The second is of a man who runs when forced to do his first execution. The third is a story of a man who unknowingly executes a friend of his girlfriend, and the final a story of a man dealing with the repercussions of declining to execute anyone years prior.

While on the surface each story is connected through the capital punishment through line, themes of freedom and personal choice are just as pertinent to the films message and reflect the director’s legal status more aptly. An Overzealous execution policy is just a symptom of a government who believes they can control every aspect their people’s lives.

At two and a half hours long, the film’s breadth is its biggest weakness.  While the four parts share the thematic consistency, in both pacing and quality they are very uneven. This results in some of the lesser moments dragging and cause the film to feel each of its 150 minutes. Each story clocking in at 35-40 minutes a piece also hinders the films composition. At that length, the stories stand on their own in a way that is not as conducive for an anthology film. In most aspect there just appears to be too much film.

Excessive length aside, There Is No Evil, delivers upon Rasoulof’s directorial intentions. Through different viewpoints he creates a fully actualized condemnation of the country attempting to silence him.