“In Iran, executions are often carried out by conscripted soldiers, which puts an enormous burden on the shoulders of ordinary citizens. And what are we to make of the condemned, for whom guilt can sometimes be a capricious thing, dictated by a severe and oppressive Islamic regime — the same one that accused Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof of ‘endangering national security’ and ‘spreading propaganda’ against the government?
“When Rasoulof returned from Cannes in 2017, following the premiere of his film A Man of Integrity, he was banned from filmmaking for life and sentenced to a year in prison. But as a man of integrity himself, the director could not stop.
“His latest film, There Is No Evil, premiered in competition at the Berlin Film Festival, where instead of being silenced, Rasoulof launches his most openly critical statement yet, a series of Kafkaesque moral parables about Iran’s death penalty and its perpetrators, made in open defiance of the restrictions the government put on him.
“The resulting feat of artistic dissidence runs two and a half hours, comprising four discrete chapters, each one designed as a standalone short film exploring a different facet of the subject. By subdividing the project like this, Rasoulof was able to direct the segments without being shut down by authorities — who are more carefully focused on features — and, in the process, he also builds a stronger argument.
“The truth, the film clearly understands, is more complicated than its title: There is evil in the world, and it corrupts us when we don’t take a stand. What would you do in the characters’ shoes? What will you do in your own?”