Director: Dariush Mehrjui
Leila is a beautiful young woman from an affluent background. Just married to a doting husband, Reza, Leila is confronted with the painful reality of being unable to bear children. Reza, contrary to what his young wife had envisaged, is unconcerned about this development; his devotion to Leila is unconditional and he feels certain that they will find immense happiness without a family. Enter the in-laws. Reza's dynamic mother is not prepared to settle for this situation; with a large brood of her own she is reluctant to miss out on the pleasure of grandchildren. She strongly urges Leila to allow Reza to take a second wife and, weighed down by a burden of familial guilt, Leila acquiesces and a second woman enters a house once filled with love.
Regarded as one of Iran's most intelligent and accomplished filmmakers, Dariush Mehrjui's films almost always centre on the relationships between the sexes. This time the director has stirred in class differences and prevalent and constrictive social mores to concoct an even more inflammatory mix. Splendidly photographed and fluidly edited, Leila is punctuated by gentle dissolves and moments of understated humour.
The process of observing Reza's initial angry refusal at a second marriage only to be backed into a corner by Leila's powerlessness to react against the forces around her is spellbinding. Mehrjui draws a tremendous store of drama from everyday situations, in this case simply an autocratic mother-in-law's unrelenting drive to ensure her posterity. A fabulous film - which enjoyed tremendous acclaim at both Vancouver and Rotterdam Film Festivals - deserving of a wide international audience.
Born in Tehran in 1940, Dariush Mehrjui studied philosophy and film at the University of California. His film career commenced in earnest in 1968 with Diamond 33 and many of Merhjui's later works have screened in festivals worldwide to universal praise. They include The Cow (1969), Mr. Naive (1970), The Postman (1972), The Cycle (1977), Shirak (1987), Sara (1993) and Pari (1995).