Si-o-se Pol

Si-OThe premise of SI-O-SE POL has such dramatic possibility that it’s hard not to give the film merit on promise alone: Parvis Karimpour, a terminally ill Iranian refugee, makes the arduous journey to Madrid in search of his daughter, so that he can apologise for his past transgressions and thereby die with peace of mind. On the way, he meets Fabrizio, a struggling Italian pianist and cleaner, and Almut, a young pregnant German jeweler with an absent boyfriend who is mysteriously left to rattle around the shabby workshop in which she has made her home.

The trio waste no time in forging strong bonds, largely based on the fact that none of them can make ends meet fiscally or emotionally in Madrid. On learning that Parvis’ daughter has married and moved to Florence, Parvis and Almut decide to pursue a new life; following Parvis’ trajectory. The trip is ill-fated: Parvis sadly doesn’t survive further than the Pyrenees due to his flagging health. Fabrizio and Almut resolve to open a small café together (presumably in Madrid – the location never specified) named after Si-O-Se Pol, a beautiful 33-arch Iranian bridge Parvis describes to Almut with fond memory and adoration.

The dexterity of the camera work goes unnoticed, in that translucent way that marks the work of a skilled professional.

Budgetary adversity has been overcome with aplomb to produce the film. The dexterity of the camera work goes unnoticed, in that translucent way that marks the work of a skilled professional. Likewise the performances are carried off, almost without exception,  with real character and role embodiment. But the rate at which these elements are brought together lets the film down. As with PIECES OF ME, the film doesn’t seem to have given full consideration to the idea that an audience’s investment in a character must be earned if any poignant scene is to be truly moving.

And yet the film is not without glimmers of contemplation. In one such scene, Parvis mock-conducts Fabrizio as he plays a virtuosic passage on a tinny keyboard in his squalid apartment. Following on from a derailed and potentially poignant exchange where Fabrizio alludes to suicidal thoughts, this is by contrast beautifully ambiguous and open to many interpretations. The certainty of the scene is that the relationship between Parvis and Fabrizio is stronger now; Parvis is comfortable enough with Fabrizio to behave in a playful manner, as Fabrizio is with him to divulge his art and livelihood. But again, had Peschel placed a higher value on subtext elsewhere, this scene might have earned even greater audience investment.

Nevertheless, the film ended to healthy applause at Cambridge Film Festival. Director Henrik Peschel, the lead actors Ramin Yazdani (Parvis) and Christian Concilio (Fabrizio), and cinematographer Kristian Leschner took to the stage for the Q&A. The questions came from a place of clear admiration on the part of the audience and interviewer, who praised their favourite scenes, the scenery, choice of colouring and the rapport between the actors. The incredibly likeable crew were humble, courteous and clearly felt a strong passion for their project. They congratulated one another deservedly after a clearly difficult production, and the audience response completed an atmosphere of all-round contentment.