A Semiological Analysis of Relationships between Man and Woman in Iranian Post-revolutionary Cinema

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, in Iran, the use of private and public spaces has been disrupted. The law imposes, in particular, a dressing code and specific codes of conduct regulating the interaction between men and women. In this particular context, art also has to comply with many changes which are consequences of the Islamizing cultural politics. The cinema as one of the most accessible art forms, also had to adapt itself to survive.
Using Anne-Marie Houdebine’s theory and methodology of semiology of indices, this work analyses the relationships between man and woman in the censured post-revolutionary Iranian cinema. The systemic analysis highlights the iconic, scenic, auditory and technical strata within movie scenes. It also highlights explicit elements which reveal the existence of a certain amount of repetitions on a formal scale in any analyzed film. We can see that a certain formal grammar is being observed when it comes to the expression of man and woman relationships in Iranian cinema. Illusions of closeness, love declarations, sexual propositions, eroticism, love and sexual relationships are suggested through various phrasal configurations of the indices, such as glances, abortive gestures, turn around scenes, images of the child, symbolic objects, outside and inside, car, courtyard, off screens, direct transitions and music.
Iranian cinema chastely explores love, expressing its own Iranianness regarding relationships between man and woman, by constructing space in the way that traditional Iranian architecture does (external space for guests and internal space for family and privacy), but also by using stylistic devices, as in classical Iranian poetry. By using cinematographic strategies, Iranian cinema tries to show the reality of people’s private and everyday life despite government censorship.
Our corpus is composed of six films dealing with taboos: The Blue Veiled (Rakhshan Bani Etemad, 1994), Syavash (Saman Moghadam, 1998), Red Ribbon (Ebrahim Hatami kya, 1998), An Umbrella for Two (Ahmad Amini, 2001), The Song of Swan (Saeed Asadi, 2001) and Fireworks Wednesday (Asghar Farhadi, 2006).