Perhaps not as well known as it should be among Western audiences, Ashkan, the Charmed Ring and Other Stories is a real gem.
Both comic and tragic, this crime drama follows a several characters whose lives cross during one day. Among them is Ashkan, a depressive who has attempted suicide no less than 14 times, two blind robbers with the perfect plan and a hopeless policeman.
In many ways Ashkan is an Iranian Pulp Fiction, with it’s use of a non-linear narrative within the crime genre. There are even moments filled with Tarantinoesque dialogue, especially between a couple of hit men who have a thing for French crime movies.
Despite this Ashkan is more than just an Iranian riff on a Tarantino movie. Visually it is extremely striking, with its own unique style. Split screen, point of view and time are all played with for humour’s sake and work extremely well. One scene in particular stands out where we see the policeman’s recollection of a certain event several different times, highlighting his terrible memory. The characters themselves are all very memorable and there are some great comic performances.
The non-linear style works extremely well, with every scene coming together by the end of the running time. Perhaps the only real fault with Ashkan is its uneven pace, which at sometimes drags on, especially at the beginning. It begins with a very long winded conversation between an artist and an art dealer, which only becomes relevant later. After this the story soon picks up momentum as you become pulled into the action and become intrigued as to how many of the characters will cross paths.
Overall Ashkan is really worth the watch and is in stark comparison to the typical Iranian melodramas and art films for which the country is most well known. Director Shahram Mokri is definitely one to keep an eye out for.