I’m turning into an Asghar Farhadi fan. I was first introduced to his work when stumbling upon A Separation, a movie about a domestic dispute that later spirals into a series of misunderstandings and false accusations. Judging from A Hero, Mr. Farhadi has a natural skill of depicting societal instability. Rahim (Amir Jadidi) is a free man for only two days. He’s been imprisoned for failing to pay his creditor. In a stroke of blind luck, Rahim’s girlfriend discovers an empty purse on a bus containing a large sum of gold. Since the gold wasn’t enough to pay off his debts, Rahim returns the bag to its rightful owner, a woman in desperate need of the money.
Like I stated in my Last Duel review, humanity’s tragic flaw is its inability to communicate. We begin most of everything with a specific intention. Rahim wanted the gold to pay off his debts, but the amount wasn’t high enough. Instead of saving the money, he does the honorable thing by letting it go. The intention wasn’t initially selfless but blossomed itself into one. But his kindness is exploited. Rahim’s creditor Bahram (Mohsen Tanabandeh) doesn’t believe he acted in good faith while everyone around Rahim showers him with praise. Humble as he is, primarily thanks to Amir Jadidi’s charming smile and soft-spoken voice, we can tell Rahim’s a decent man whose being taken advantage of. Both parties argue their side to a story that doesn’t require arguing. Instead of accepting kindness, we degrade ourselves into skepticism. Bahram antagonizes Rahim consistently. Calling him names, questioning his character, attempting to sabotage his life any chance he gets.
Soon, that warm gentleman we know becomes violently aggressive towards his aggressor. How can anyone blame him? Bahram’s words against Rahim begin to spread, bringing his nobility into question and costing him the ability to start his life all over again. When the community builds up an icon in Rahim’s image, it doesn’t take long for someone to try to tear it down.
The age of individuality is over, where the age of social media reigns supreme. Rahim is built up as a local hero, only to be depicted as a villain not much later. Why? Because society doesn’t want to co-exist peacefully. The downfall of Rahim is similar to what humankind has done for years. We hail a king, then celebrate his fall. Nobody cares about a perfect person; they care about their flaws, they skewer their words to benefit themselves. All of it is in favor of insecurity. It’s easier to point fingers and say, “I’m not him; that’s the bad guy,” then reflect upon ourselves. When we do, we don’t like what we see. So we create a sacrificial lamb for the village to feast upon.
Rahim isn’t a saint. Resorting to violence is an inexcusable action. And Rahim does it twice. In that regard, Bahram is validated. But we push people’s buttons to that extent so we can bring them there, then we say they’ve gone too far when they snap. Social media never tells a complete story about someone’s persona, nor does the local news or the early printing press. With cameras attached to anything, anyone can become famous. Rahim is thrust into a spotlight he doesn’t want to share. When torn from his pedestal, Rahim’s entire family and his enemies hurt.
The impact of social mistrust is gloriously examined in another movie by a man who never seeks easy answers, aware that filmmaking doesn’t need to rely its narrative on absolutes. Who we are as people is far too complex to be simplified with a standard narrative. Asghar Farhadi is a filmmaker who’s disinterested in the conventions that create a typical character. It’s the questionable things we do and say that make us who we are. Something far more layered than your Luke Skywalkers out there. In Mr. Farhadi’s world, man is good nor bad. We’re incredibly stressed and misunderstood. A Hero wonderfully resembles why we’re afraid to perform a good deed. In the jungle of man, how long can it be until your kindness is exploited for someone else’s cruelty?