Directed by: #HesamRahmani
Written by: #SaeedAminabadi
“I dedicate this movie to my father and all the people struggling with dementia.”
Right from the start, it is clear that Faces without Visage is tackling deeply personal material for the filmmakers, focusing on childhood memories and building this imagery from family photographs. Hesam Rahmani guides us through this journey with gripping editing and animation, depicting his father and himself in the struggles against dementia. The visual language Rahmani commits to elevates his story as Saeed Aminabadi’s script and narration gives context beyond blanket statements, his words flow like poetry as they contemplate the helpless feelings against memories slipping away.
Rahmani and Aminabadi don’t layout this family history clinically, the strain of dementia against its subjects and families are felt through the framing of a photograph, a clue hidden within the narration. Aminabadi chronicles this journey in a neutral tone neither giving in to anger or grief, we are presented this story as a memory, resigned and out of our control. Rahmani presents the memory and the story as out of control, both for himself and the audience as the use of animation specifically the scribbled lines which cover faces is very effective. Treasured memories in the form of the most mundane photos are twisted and manipulated capturing that chilling thought of how vulnerable one is against this disease. The imagery bore similarities to “Time’s Arrow” an episode of Bojack Horseman which also explored the effects of dementia against memory.
Eventually, almost every face vanishes, the features and the feelings of every person gone as Rahmani has the audience stare into the empty voids replaced by skylines or fire. It’s disturbing but tranquil as Faces without Visage sets out to empathise rather than terrify but it's still not without its haunting moments. Aminabadi’s narration has the audience piece together the history to Rahmani and his father, with allusions to a dark past as a visage is replaced with a bullet or a photo is streaked with blood. His relationship with Golzar Torkamanha, the mother and how the father only remembered her with implications that her death has left him deeply depressed, now awaiting his own death unable to recognise anything around him. Faces without Visage is not a happy story but it still has a reaffirming power through its visuals, the audience learns more on every rewatch discovering new pieces within the narration and composition.
Finishing with a gripping and heartbreaking final scene, Hesam Rahmani doesn’t let the artistry to his film be a cover to the reality to its inspirations. It’s a moving and fascinating piece that delves into understanding dementia’s effect on the mind so when we finally look into Hasan Rahmani’s eyes perhaps we can finally understand what he sees instead of what we see.