The Cow (Gaav)

Thursday, 28.11.2019, 19.15
Filmclub 813

Feature film, Iran 1968, subtitled, 100′ digital
Director: Dariush Mehrjui
Book: Gholam-Hossein Saedi
Cinematography: Fereydoon Ghovanlou
Music: Hormoz Farhad
With: Ezatollah Entezami, Mahin Shahabi, Ali Nassirian

Mashdi Hassan loves his cow, the only one in the village. When she dies, the villagers try to hide it from him and tell him she has escaped. But the loss of his status symbol plunges him into a crisis that takes on increasingly pathological traits – until Hassan himself believes he is a cow and starts eating hay. The 29-year-old’s film is seen as a turning point in Iranian cinema – a fundamental critique of the economic and feudal system under the Shah, implemented with ethnographic details and techniques of magical realism. Although state-sponsored, “The Cow” was drastically re-cut and banned because of its depiction of rural misery. In 1971 it was secretly smuggled to the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Critics’ Prize. The existentialist, neorealistically staged fable about the individual and the collective quickly developed into a cult film and is regarded as a masterpiece of Iranian cinema. 

Followed by a discussion with Robert Safarian (film critic, Tehran)



Dariush Mehrjui (*1939 in Tehran) bought a 35mm projector and two film reels at the age of 12 and paid the entrance fee. At 20 he moved to the USA, studied cinematography with Jean Renoir, but soon turned away from the studio system. After a degree in philosophy he returned to Iran, where he first filmed the James Bond parody “Diamond 33” (1966). “The Cow” (“Gaav”) was his artistic breakthrough and provided the impulse for the Iranian “Nouvelle Vague” (“Mouje Nou”). The rest is history: Today Mehrjui is one of the most productive Iranian auteur filmmakers.