a hero

When we first meet Rahim (Amir Jadidi), the protagonist of Asghar Farhadi‘s A Hero, he is seen sitting behind an open door made of bars. In the next scene, we notice him behind a fence, walking outside a building. This building is a police station, and Rahim has just been released from it. Yet, the framing (that door made of bars and that fence) suggests that he is not really free. Your suspicion turns out to be true, as we soon find out that he has only been released temporarily for two days to settle a debt of 150 million tomans. These metaphors continue: when the title of the film shows up, Rahim is climbing stairs, suggesting that he will reach great heights but also face pain.

Farkondeh (Sahar Goldoost), Rahim’s lover, finds a bag with a broken strap and some gold coins. She asks Rahim to sell those coins and pay back his debt. But the value of the gold decreases, and he finds out that he won’t be able to completely pay off his debt. He doesn’t sell the coins, and his conscience tells him to return the bag. He does exactly that and the owner finds her bag. His deed is celebrated in prison, the news channels interview him and he is made into a local celebrity. Everybody praises him for his noble act. But there are people like Bahram (Mohsen Tanabandeh) who see the act as a fraudulent attempt by Rahim to whitewash his character. Bahram is Rahim’s brother-in-law and he is the one who needs to be paid 150 million tomans. He thinks Rahim is restoring his image to get bail from prison, after which he would interfere in the marriage of his ex-wife.

Also Read: A Hero Is A Gripping Study Of Altruism In The Age Of The Social Media Star

Manipulation marks Rahim’s story. He informs a police officer named Salehi (Farrokh Nourbakht) that the purse was found by his future wife and that he can’t reveal her name. But Salehi assures him that telling everyone that he found the purse would be of no consequence. Rahim has an innocent face that makes us root for him. Of course, he is not perfect. When asked to speak a few words at a charity function, Rahim says, “But there was a mishap at the gold dealer. When he set out to calculate the price of the coins, his calculator broke down. He took a pen, but it didn’t work either. I suddenly thought to myself that these were signs. Signs which indicated that wasn’t the right thing to do.” You can sense that he is amping up his “good man” image for more sympathy. Rahim enjoys the sweet fruit of his selfless deed. He produces his merit certificate at a shop to access CCTV footage. He relishes the acclaim and attention showered on him.

Rahim also encounters critics. They ask him to prove himself. A hiring manager tells him to come back with his sister, son, and the owner of the handbag. But none of them is a ‘bad person’, not even Bahram. They have their reasons for not fully trusting Rahim, who, on the other hand, is shocked whenever someone distrusts him or asks him to prove his act was not a lie.

There is anger simmering beneath the surface of A Hero, waiting to explode. Consider the chaotic dinner scene when Rahim is released temporarily. His son refuses to let go of the tablet and his sister Malileh (Maryam Shahdaei) criticizes him. This scene is the cinematic equivalent of a ticking time bomb. Then, there is Rahim’s frustrated face whenever he is accused of deception. You feel convinced that he is going to lose his temper and punch the person in front of him. For the most part, no trace of violence is found on the surface. But anger finally wins as Rahim loses control and hits Bahram. Everything goes downhill.

While watching the movie, you constantly change your loyalty until you accept that everyone is flawed and there are no binary “pure” and “evil” categories to choose from. You support Rahim. But when Bahram reveals his own past experience, you also feel sorry for him. One scene towards the end elicits a strong and unshakable response from within. To cushion Rahim’s fall, Salehi records Rahim’s stuttering son for sympathy from the public. The child is given directions on what to say in front of the camera. It’s uncomfortable to watch, and your soul freezes in horror. Thankfully, Rahim becomes aware of the exploitation and confronts Salehi, forcing him to delete the video. Rahim is neither a hero nor a villain. He is just an ordinary man who was used by the police department and the charity organizers to enhance their own image. They put him on a pedestal, and he savoured the attention like anyone would do in his position. Rahim is as good and bad and heroic as anyone else.

Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.

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