EIFF 2013: 'Taboor' review

Pushing Iranian cinema into a new stratosphere, Vahid Vakilifar's Taboor (2012) is a bleak and meditative study of a society rotting from the inside out. Vakilifar takes us through the streets of Tehran, charting the nocturnal activities of an enigmatic man (Mohammad Rabbanipour) clad in a tinfoil suit that protects his hypersensitive body from harmful microwaves. Eerily claustrophobic, Taboor takes the narrative framework of science fiction and strips it of the spectacle and grandeur normally associated with the genre. Clad entirely in foil, the film opens in a small trailer that's currently our protagonist's make-shift home.

It's here that we witness the man's ritualistic preparations for his evenings of work as a pest control operative across a myriad of contrasting locations. He appears to be eradicating the city of cockroaches, yet his nighttime excursion also lead him to other, more surreal destinations: a ride on a 5D simulator at a local theme park; the house of a mysterious dwarf who uses our protagonist for some precarious rifle practice. Confinement and the fear of contamination appear to be the driving themes of this oppressive drama. Taboor is shot with a narrow focus that's only heightened by Vakilifar's meticulously fashioned and visually striking use of symmetry - projecting a sense of fatalistic helplessness onto the audience.

Turning Tehran into a dystopian backdrop, Vakilifar's near-wordless film (the first line isn't spoken until half-an-hour in) also employs an ominously brooding score to soundtrack our protagonist's plight. Taboor examines how we as a species - unlike other creatures - infect ourselves by artificially influencing the environment around us. Our protagonist's job in pest control allows us to witness a simplified version of how we regulate our world. However, pesticides have often been linked to a rise in cancer cases, and whilst the foil-clad Rabbanipour is purging the city of ecological irritants, his actions are simultaneously harming both himself and others.

Behind this demanding study of environmental abuse, Vakilifar's Taboor never feels like its tale is leading us anywhere near a productive conclusion, wallowing instead in its own meticulously fashioned mood of prevailing doom. Whilst a fitting allegory for humankind's inevitable ecological downfall, the film's languid presentation of a terminally-ill near-future doesn't offer up much food for thought beyond a sombre eulogy for a dying planet.

The 67th Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place from 19-30 June, 2013. For more of our EIFF 2013 coverage, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble


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