Holy Spider: Ali Abbasi’s Film Noir–Iranian Style

Ali Abbasi introduces ‘Persian noir’ to Cannes with ‘Holy Spider’

“This is a film noir. This is a Persian noir,” Abbasi told the press.

The movie takes viewers to the outskirts of the Iranian city, where serial killer Saeed Hanaei, played by Mehdi Bajestani, hunts down poor prostitutes in what he sees as a cleansing mission.

“We want to build a universe which is dark, which has an underbelly, which has vice, which has trouble, which has all sorts of conflicts ongoing,” said Abbasi. “Is that an accurate portrait of Iran?”

The movie shows a society that is unforgiving to those who deviate from its religious rules. When the real life “spider killer” was caught in 2001, he found public support for his argument that he was stamping out what he called moral corruption.

Nonetheless, he was convicted and executed the following year.

The movie, distributed by Metropolitan Filmexport, is one of 21 films vying for the festival’s Palme d’Or.

Abbasi won the Cannes prize in the “Un Certain Regard” category in 2018 with Border.

The director sought to expose the contradictory nature of Iranian society, where women may be highly trained doctors and engineers but are also subject to tight controls over what they wear and how they look in public.