A cinematic curio, this one. An audience of mostly women is seated for a film of a legendary romance, replete with journeys, palaces, doomed love across the tracks, war and betrayal, destiny being played out however harsh and unsatisfactory.
And we don't see any of that stuff, except in so far as it is reflected in the eyes of the spectators in the theatre. They stare, they ponder, they smile a little, they get a jolt at the violence and plenty of tears along the way. We hear the story and to be honest its only slightly foggy for not being seen. What this then amounts to is ninety minutes of moving portraits of women, young and old, reacting to a narrative of true love doomed to remain unfulfilled.
Some will undoubtedly find the whole thing an empty conceit, boring and contrived. For my part, I was yawning after an hour or so, but what really proved unbelievable was just how attentive the director liked to present the audience. No munching on sweets, dozing off, gabbing or texting going on in this cinema. You get the feeling that not only is every occupant of every seat a separate human being (of course, true) but that they all came in alone (hardly likely).
Lots of the faces on display are beautiful, elegantly haloed in headscarves, so that helps. A lot. I don't know if there is a political or subversive intention behind Shirin, except to convey that maybe not much has changed for Iranian women since the days of the forlorn heroine. There is still all consuming love, jealousy and mishaps to be endured, but that's true everywhere.
As I say, a curio.