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The President

Directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf

Georgia, 2014

HOME, 22 August 2015

The President

On the surface, it is a film about what happens to a country when a dictator is toppled and order (albeit repressive order) breaks down.

How base instinct and casual violence become routine as chaos ensues.

He flees, the president of this failed state, along with his young grandson, and in time he comes to see for himself the ravages of his rule, the consequences of his cruelty. Had he been less authoritarian, kinder, things may have been different, but maybe not. Who knows?

The film is fraught with fear, its picaresque structure allowing us a moveable vantage on terror and despair, whether we want it or not. And the awful scene where a raped woman demands to be shot is one you might not want to witness. But it can’t be wished away.

I admire this film greatly and wondered afterwards whether there might not be a Christ incognito motif somewhere. The president is only recognised when he assumes the form of a scarecrow, which is to say the form of the crucified Christ. Other aspects in the film tally with this interpretation (there’s a prostitute called Maria, for example). No miracles, mind.