Naked Town

Issue section: 

Review of 'It's Winter', Director: Rafi Pitts

Except for a disheartening background song that breaks through the storyline of It's Winter, the short feature is near silent, just like the snow that falls in the northern Iranian village where the film is set. The characters are also quiet, sombre, worried. There are no jobs and times are difficult.

A man leaves his wife and daughter to find work abroad. After six months they still haven't received word or money from him. A battered police car brings the message that he won't be back. Someone is watching the house as the police leave and hear the cries inside. He's a mechanic and a "wanderer" who has come to town looking for work.

He is in love - following the newly widowed woman through the market place, when she leaves her job in the sweatshop, waiting on the railway tracks opposite her house.

Now alone, the woman has to make ends meet. She is the strongest character in the story - struggling to survive day to day - but also the one who gets left behind as she cannot leave.

It's Winter is stuck in time but yet moving aimlessly. That's what makes it interesting. Its realism is saddening but all too believable. It's worth watching despite its depressing surroundings - snow, sleet, poverty, desperation and deep shades of blue and grey.

Without saying as much, It's Winter invites us to have a rare glimpse of Iranian small town life, of bosses who refuse to pay their employees, and of love and hope.

"Everything that is broken can be fixed" is the mechanic's motto. With spring and summer warming the place up a bit, he sticks to his philosophy by standing up to his manager, and even gets close to the widow. But desolation comes anew with the next winter.

The longest monologue in the film captures the mechanic's, and perhaps his whole generation's feeling of anguish: "What's the point to know a trade and go unemployed? I've worked all my life. I'm a mechanic. I can fix anything. Why go through all this trouble? I don't even like to work. I like a good time. Too much work ruins you."

It's Winter conveys a theme familiar to everybody with the story of the mechanic who tries to settle down from a rootless life but is stopped by bosses, money and social conventions.

The woman who gives in to the mechanic's lovesickness to escape loneliness is timeless. And so is the irony of trying so hard to make a better life for oneself somewhere else - only to have to return empty-handed or be forced to leave again.

Rafi Pitts, the director, succeeds in portraying the nakedness of life and work without forcing the story. He probably does it so well by using non-actors who really bring out the bottom line in It's Winter. Everybody tries to get by but not everyone has the luxury of choosing how.