UNDER THE SHADOW is a film of ghosts directed by Babak Anvari, filmmaker of iranian origin. If the reasons story – the story of a mother and her daughter confront a manifestation of the supernatural malevolent – is relatively conventional, its special feature is its context: Tehran at the end of years 80, in the heart of the Iran-Iraq war.

We speak of this because it is available on Netflix from January 7, 2017, but also because it will be presented in competition at the festival de Gérardmer 2017, of which our dear Arkham is also a member of the jury SyFy. Here is the trailer !


We will immediately cite two influences that we all jump to the eyes to the vision of the film of’UNDER THE SHADOW: The spine of the devil of Guillermo Del Toro, and the cinema of Polanski. Not to reduce the film by Babak Anvari was a pastiche of these two works, but rather to better explain what is fascinating in the directions taken by the director.

UNDER THE SHADOW share, as well with The spine of the devil, for two reasons: a bomb that crashed without exploding in a place of life, as well as a way of using allegory to bring out the real.

In the film by Babak Anvari, this missile from Iraq had therefore brought with him a Djinn (an evil entity in the arab culture) whose ambition seems to be to destroy insidiously the daily Shideh and her daughter Dorsa. Now, if one imagines Shideh and Dorsa as two characters-symbols, of Iran and of the iranian revolution (see below), and if we trace a line between a certain past and a certain present from Iran

— […] investiture of the Shah through the american interventionism typical of the cold war (1951)

=> iranian revolution (1979)

=> Iran-Iraq War (1980)-(1988)

=> Gulf war (1990-1991)

=> development of Al-Qaeda, especially after the devastation of infrastructure caused by the united States in Iraq

=> September 11, 2001

=> american occupation of Iraq & Afghanistan war

=> Islamic State […] —

The fantastic can then be used as the allegory of fanaticism paradoxical, seeking to terrorize those who have created through the hatred and unhappiness… the terrorizing, the better to destroy them from the inside.

As the Spanish civil war in Guillermo Del Toro, the geo-political backcloth of’UNDER THE SHADOW is so stunning that, like the reminiscence of a supernatural presence, its presence seems to be antediluvian and decided to root itself more deeply still.

The spine of the devil

Under the shadow

This particular vision also feeds the portrait of individuals ambivalent, creates a strong link between the small and the great history.

The iranian revolution has changed the life of Shideh. His career dreams, his emancipation, his freedom of speech, or its political ideals… swallowed up by that will massive of a return to traditional values leading to a rejection of the progressivism imported from power by the americans. Her daughter Dorsa, born to all levels of this revolution (Shideh met her husband and gives birth to at this time) is thus the symbol of a passion and a commitment to evolution of the daily, as a loss of identity and individual freedom and… Metaphors of Iran and its revolution. The war, which is a direct consequence of the iranian revolution (see wiki) is therefore a tragedy that befalls the family – that family, and destroyed on several fronts. Geographically, since the husband hand to the front, socially, because Shideh will never be a doctor as she dreamed, but the mother at home, and that’s all !, but also on a more intimate level, as the conflict exacerbates the repressed desires – feminism, lack of responsibilities, etc. -, prohibited by the political and religious situation of the country.

Then there is the psychology. It materializes through the fantastic, the supernatural presence operator, quite literally, the subtle relation of love/hate and frustrations/fantasies between Shideh and Dorsa referring to each of which is a reflection of his own fears buried. The loss of a husband, of femininity, of youth, of the security for a… the loss of his childhood, of innocence, of love founder, his dreams for the other. Unlike ghosts creepy ones but the benevolent Del Toro… Here the Jinn are the terrorists of the intimate.

This link, mentioned above, between fantasy and psychology, seems to be directly inherited from the cinema of Polanski. The director, franco-Polish, Babak Anvari picks up this way of structuring the dive to the horror as a psychological evolution. The characters, are they becoming fools or are they really victims of a supernatural entity ? The illustration of this question and to return to the allegory, and political-social: the horror is the result of a real, palpable, or is it the individual who creates his or her own traumas ? Babak Anvari shows us a daily life built on certainties, facts, rules, things that the war will come to upset. Unless this is Saddam Hussein and this missile ? The iranian revolution and the GRI ? a Djinn ? A glazier ? The United States ? A husband, a pregnancy ? A kid mutique ? His own daughter ? A Djinn ? The field of possibilities is vast and interactive, Babak Anvari , taking care to superimpose elements and interpretations in order to build, progressively, a fantastic mind-space inside of this building-brain-fissuring slowly but surely. The explosion can come at any time, from anywhere, generating paranoia and fear. It all leads to terror, and terror is born of any. And especially what we cannot see. A war and its bombs, there on the other side of the window or at the corner of the room, behind this table, a christian, in the reflection of the tv, on the other side of this crack.

Under the shadow reminds us of Del Toro or Polanski, but goes far beyond these influences Click To Tweet

The advantage with the fear in this film there is that has the image of our fear safe (well real one there), it is based entirely on the way in which we represent the threat. Babak Anvari has understood and reuses therefore, the codes of the most basic horror film. Those there same that will make us smile when they are identified. A window, a silence, watching through a peephole… YES, but here it is: the director reshapes these codes, sometimes very subtly, to create the surprise and dread, exactly where you do not expect it. UNDER THE SHADOW deploys for this, a certain degree of technical inventiveness in the staging of the fantastic. Choice of frames and décadrages bold, moods (image+sound+game players), sometimes by the assembly, – panting or extremely slow, sequence. Sometimes the surprise is in the repetition of a pattern, but, very often, lies in the invisible. We don spoilera not what are his famous jumpscares or moments of tension, but they marked us. Indélébilement

The invisible, incredible source of dread and discomfort, in Under the shadow

There is also The Babadook the Polanskienne Jennifer Kent for his report, parent-child put into perspective by the madness and the horror, James Wan, for its formal creativity as a whole at the service of a effective horror, or even the Hideo Nakata ‘s Dark Water, that the ghost was nourished also of family ties, similar to those existing between Shideh and Dorsa… But in the end, these references are used primarily to put into perspective the intelligence of Babak Anvari in the reorganization of influences in the service of a very personal speech and protest.

UNDER THE SHADOW has its own personality, its own power formal, and an allegory singular that are already in our sense, a horror classic. Please do not hesitate to discover it now on Netflix, or see it in theaters at the festival of Gérardmer 2017.



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