A young man stands on the sidewalk, shooting a rifle. Not killing anyone, not hurting anyone. Just pointing into the air — as the viewer eventually, thankfully figures out — and shooting. Taking time, between shots, to smile and riff and joke with his friends on the sidewalk. Eventually the rifle shots blend into the background. With firecrackers. Fizzing sparklers. Folks jumping over fires.
It’s Chaharshanbe Suri — the Persian New Year’s Eve — the last Wednesday before Nowruz, and which is celebrated on the vernal equinox. Asghar Farhadi’s “Fireworks Wednesday,” set in Tehran, raises its curtain on the morning of that day.
The 2006 feature film opens on the big screen in Seattle at Sundance Cinemas on Friday, after being re-released earlier this year. “Fireworks Wednesday” writer and director Farhadi also wrote and directed “A Separation,” which won the Academy Award for best foreign film in 2012.
The narrative begins simply enough, in daylight, with Rouhi, played by Taraneh Alidoosti, saying goodbye to her fiancée as she goes to a new temporary housekeeping position. The work should be straightforward. It is not.
Upon arriving for her job, she discovers a broken window, an apartment wrapped up almost entirely in plastic, a couple loudly arguing, and, eventually, a child caught in the middle. She’s sent away. She’s told to come back.
Rouhi discovers that her employer Mojdeh, played by Hedieh Tehrani, believes that her husband is cheating on her with a recently divorced neighbor, and Rouhi’s job is to spy on him.
In the ensemble drama that takes place over that Wednesday, we don’t follow a straightforward story so much as we follow what everyone means to everyone else.
Other folks wander in and out, trying to get business done. Even on the morning and afternoon of a holiday, people conduct business and children go to school. Life must go on, although for some life seems near a breaking point. Secrets seep out — not spilling, moving slowly. Slow but steady. Matter-of-factly and unstoppable, like the young man with the rifle.
Taraneh Alidoosti, one of Iran’s leading actresses, has a face that belongs in a canvas from a Dutch master. Her character Rouhi isn’t exempt from failings. She’s caught in the web of intrigue, and she decides which ways to crawl through.
Sometimes Rouhi chooses dishonesty. Sometimes she chooses less than the whole truth. Or silence. She doesn’t chose as badly as some of the others, but she is human. Simply, but profoundly human. The story reminds us of the profundity in simplicity. It’s a point that still needs making and may always need making. Farhadi makes it look easy. Just like pointing and shooting. Jumping over a fire.
“Fireworks Wednesday” opens April 22 at Seattle’s Sundance Cinemas, 4500 9th Ave NE, Seattle WA 98105, and is scheduled through next week.