One Two One
Written by Mania Akbari and Majid Eslami
Directed by Mania Akbari
Iranian actress-director Mania Akbari’s latest film is a hypnotising mood piece, rooted in both experimental and theatrical styles. Composed entirely of less than fifteen long takes of varying lengths, the film presents a series of vignette conversations and encounters concerning people connected to a specific young woman named Ava. The film follows her journey to regain self confidence after her face is disfigured via an acid attack courtesy of her ex-lover, in a society that elevates the importance of female physical beauty. In addition to the theme of self-worth rejuvenation, the film also concerns the complications inherent in relationships.
As each vignette unfolds, more of Ava is revealed in both figurative and literal senses. Her time in the film begins with her in a spa, where her damaged face is covered by a mask. It then progresses to her encounters while having to don a large eye patch during her gradual healing process, and finally concludes with her meeting a suitor in a cable car. Flashes of increasing colour in both her clothing and make-up denote the freedom she has achieved by the film’s end, though the narrative’s finale is suitably ambiguous so as not to suggest the journey or relationships could be or ever have been simple.
The various long takes of the film are built around mostly static shots that linger on the faces of its characters, with slow sideway pans generally providing the only sort of camera movement. Despite the static nature of the shots, the film is highly rhythmical, with its almost straight-to-camera confessionals and monologues containing the same sort of potency as found in a film like Ingmar Bergman’s Winter Light; Ingrid Thulin’s devastating speech into the camera in that great work definitely springs to mind during certain sequences of Akbari’s fantastic effort. Static is also reflected in the film’s visuals, such as in the cable car sequence. The car is constantly ascending, but the camera never moves away from the faces; despite the appearance of progression, we can still find ourselves stuck in the same position. Aided by terrific performances, including newcomer Neda Amiri as Ava, One.Two.One is a palpably painful portrait of healing and sadness.