Ballad of a White Cow ‘MUBI’ Review: How do we define truth? Is it what “is”? Or what appears circumstantially and is believed by everyone without doubts? Does belief have anything to contribute to the validity of a truth? Does truth change its form? In other words, is it dynamic? Is it an absolute variable? Or has a normativity attached to it? While there is objectivity to every occurrence that is branded as the truth, we all struggle to prioritize it over our perception. Hence, events often bear a duality. One that of what is perceived and the other that actually is. However, the longevity of truth is greater than perception.

Ballad of a White Cow revolves around the tragedy that comes into the picture when people have their truth invalidated in favour of perception and when the truth finally gets revealed as perception withers away. Our protagonist Mina, played by Maryam Moghadam, loses her husband to retributive execution. Only a year later the authorities come to know that Mina’s husband Babek was, in fact, innocent. Therefore, his execution was wrongful.

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The awareness of this truth feels like a burden to Mina’s existence. Because the perception had its irreversible consequences. The past has been rendered unjust and the future bleak. It is impossible to imagine the trauma that persists. Ballad of a White Cow attempts to critically analyze the violence of the state in the name of law and the skewed idea of the death penalty being a human right. The critical analysis exists in the form of a muted drama that uses a seemingly anomalous situation for a conflict. Nevertheless, the conflict provides an opportunity for the filmmakers to comment on the futility of the legal system.

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In a simultaneous narrative, we find Reza, played by Alireza Sani Far, navigating through guilt and his inability to confront his wrongs. Reza deteriorates in his existence and so does his faith in the system. His guilt-driven tryst with Mina becomes a primary source of anxiety for the audience, who find themselves aware not only of the truth but also of the sociopolitical reality it is set in. Consequently, the film becomes an exercise in anticipation.

It is exciting to notice how Ballad of a White Cow has a cinephilic attribute. It pays an ode to Iranian cinema, as well as cinema in general. Most importantly, it suggests a distinction between the pre-revolution and post-revolution cinema of Iran. The mention, along with a visual film reference, nudge contemporary Iranian society.

My reservations exist with the resolution of the film. It is evident that the filmmakers are attempting a passive-aggressive resolution that shows more and tells less. Yet, the ambiguous display doesn’t translate the aggression in the most efficient manner. Additionally, it ends up revealing a lot less about the protagonist’s inner turmoil. To elaborate, while the shock and perhaps a tinge of guilt are reflected optimally, it is hard to assume the nature of Mina’s anger. Only the degree of it can be assumed. Ballad of a White Crow leaves a lot in the hands of the audience when it comes to its resolution. While it can be argued that it is only merit that the film is choosing against imposing a termination, I personally feel that the quietness of it compromises the aftereffect.

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Alireza and Maryam are brilliant in their performances. Maryam plays Mina with nuanced body language to convey a range of emotions for various occasions of revelations, joy, anger, and shock. Alireza, on the other hand, moves in a muted manner to amplify his character’s guilt-driven paralysis. Their movements fall in contrast to each other and become a source of tension.

Ballad of a White Cow is an important piece of Iranian cinema that contributed to my cinephilia. Its political voice is urgent, which makes it worthy of recognition.


Ballad of a White Cow is now streaming on MUBI USA

MUBI catalog differs from country to country. What’s playing in the USA, may not play in India and Vice Versa. The same goes for users from any other country. However, you can still access the film by using ExpressVPN. ExpressVPN is fast, secure, and unlocks MUBI catalogs from around the World. Get ExpressVPN by checking out these exciting deals.

Ballad of a White Cow Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Ballad of a White Cow Cast – Maryam Moghadam, Alireza Sani Far, Pouria Rahimi Sam

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