Hadessa: The Final Incident

Mr. and Mrs Nori (Bahman and Soraya Mofid), the protagonists of Hadesae: The Final Incident, the new film by Iranian director Kayvon Derakhshanian, are a middle-aged Iranian couple, trying to live a new life with their mentally scarred daughter, Afsone (Sepideh Mashiah), in the U.S. They are forever guilty for leaving their 9 year old daughter, in war-ridden Iran, in l983, under the tutelage of her aunt.

In a flashback, the viewers see the vicious raid, during which Afsone's aunt is murdered and she brutally raped. In l988, bribing a janitor, the Noris arrange for Afsone's escape from an asylum. They are now desperately trying to assist their severely ill daughter overcome her haunting nightmares of the horrific events she had witnessed. Locking Afsone in a secert hideaway, the Noris vow to do anything and everything to keep her away from the authorities.

The Noris deal with their ordeal in different ways. Mr. Nori, the more sentimental of the two, weeps and screams. His wife seems to be more rational, always keeping her emotions under control. At one point, Mrs. Nori says, “I am supposed to nag like a woman, not you.” But it's hard to know to what extent the film's reversal of gender roles is meant as a conscious commentary on the conduct of Iranian men and women.

All too conveniently, screenwriter Ali Emani arranges for a group of Iranian youngsters to happen upon the Noris' private property, when they go on a camping trip and their van gets stuck in the woods. The students represent an assorted group of types: the amiable guy, the attractive bitch, the innocent girl. They flirt, smoke a joint, and quarrel. “What do you think, this is Iran” says one male during a fistfight, “This is America. We have laws here.” In one of the film's better scenes, a student claims that his widow mother is much better off in the U.S., because “in Iran, widows have no rights.”

The students are obviously in different phases of assimilation to American culture. This is reflected in the music they listen to, a blend of traditional Iranian and pop American music. Some of them don't even speak English. Once in a while American slang pops out, or a reference is made to American movies, like Rambo. However, as soon as the viewers get involved in the students' interactions, the action switches upstairs, to another manifestation of Afsone's mentally unstable behavior.

The major problem of Hadesae is that the film could not decide which of its multiple plots to focus on. The story switches back and forth between the upstairs, where Afsone is locked up, and downstairs, where the students spend the night. It doesn't take long for the guests to find out the family secret. From there, the movie goes down hill, until it reaches its tragic (and preposterous) conclusion, which seems to be out of a B horror film.

Made on a shoe-string budget, Hadesae looks and feels like a first feature. The flashbacks to Afsone's terror in Iran, effectively depicted in black and white, are emotionally gripping. And the mega-closeup of the soldier who shoots Afsone's aunt in cold-blood, in front of her eyes, is truly frightening. But the rest of the film is poorly shot and edited, possibly due to its small budget. And the last sequence, with all the characters hysterically running around, with many of them killed, is particularly weak.

Hadesae is undoubtedly intended as a message film–it is dedicated to all the parents who have lost their children in war. But the movie is never able to reconcile the different genres that it uses for its narrative. Hadesae may be too ambitious for its own good, attempting to be a sentimental anti-war melodrama, a suspense-thriller, and a horror film. The result is a muddled, incoherent film that changes gears and moods all too often.