Director's note on the film "Time Of Love"
by: Mohsen Makhmalbaf
A) “Time of Love” Philosophy
1st Hypothesis: If you heard that a Vietnamese citizen was killed by an American soldier, you’d categorize it as political news. If you aim to make a film of the incidence as it occurred it will also be a political film. If however, a Vietnamese was killed in a preordained 30-year war between Vietnam and the US by an American soldier who was predestined to join the war on demand of his age, then this piece of news will no longer be categorized as political. Because the issues at large are the preordained factors of a 30-year long war and the age of the American soldier. This therefore will be a philosophical piece of news. Because of the way it is narrated you may wonder that if that Vietnamese had been born in America and served the American army and the American soldier had been born in Vietnam, wouldn’t the position of the murderer and the victim have been changed? And if a film based on that outlook was made wouldn’t it be a philosophical film?
2nd Hypothesis: Bertolucci made a film on the Chinese revolution titled “The Last Emperor”. The emperor fled and when he was caught he attempted to commit suicide. He was saved, put on trial and at last acquitted. So far it is a political-historical film. In the flashbacks and the trial the story goes further and brings forth the question as to what this person’s crime was to have been born in an emperor’s house with an only son and before his father’s historical kingdom ended the innocent child by fate had to be trained and take the responsibility of running an emperorship. This is Bertolucci’s question: If this child who was born in a palace and became emperor were born in a poor peasant’s house instead, wouldn’t he have become a Chinese revolutionary? Or wouldn’t he participate in the attempt to arrest the emperor with other fellow revolutionaries? This is where the film extends beyond its political/historical layer and takes a philosophical turn about man’s level of freedom in determining his own fate.
3rd Hypothesis: If a man in love with his wife finds out another man also loves his wife who aims to possess her and the husband attempts to murder the other man, we are faced with a crime of passion. A film based on the incidence will be a love-murder plot. If however after the first episode the story develops differently in the sense that this man with as much love is unable to marry the woman of his interest and the woman becomes his rival’s wife but he still commits the murder then we are faced with a philosophical story because in changing the mental condition of these two rivals we arrived at a philosophical subject similar to the exchange of the birthplace of the American soldier and the Vietnamese citizen or the emperor with that of a peasant’ child. This article is a review of the role of “condition” on the fate of every human being. Bringing up the question as to how far the condition of rivals in any subject changes, the first rival would probably show the same reaction in the new position as previously shown by the second rival in the first situation.
A careful attention to the story’s digest reveals that this script or the film intends to propound a philosophical question and love is merely an application. Consequently the script can be rewritten based on the case of the Vietnamese citizen and the American soldier engaged in a political war and a similar philosophical conclusion may be reached at..
Time Of Love Synopsis:
First Episode: Black-haired, in love with Guzal for two years, in buying a taxi to get her mother’s consent has become indebted. Now with Guzal being his wife he hears from an old man who accidentally finds out about Guzal’s secret that she and a blond shoeshine man have fallen in love and are having an affair. Black-haired kills Blond man and surrenders to court. The court sentences him to death penalty. He is content because he was defending his chastity (wife). The court allows him to choose the type of death penalty he prefers. He requests to be thrown at sea. His grandmother had taught him that whoever died in the sea would resurrect. Wounded by Black-haired as well Guzal commits suicide for the sake of her love of Blond man in the same place where she met him.
Second Episode: This time Blond man, a taxi driver and Guzal’s ex-lover is her husband. Black-haired, a lemon seller in the train station who was thrown at sea appears as Guzal’s illegitimate lover. The neighbor, an old man accidentally finds out about the affair and informs Blond man of Guzal’s affair. Blond man attempts to murder Black-haired but this time as well Black-haired kills Blond man and surrenders to court. He is sentenced to death penalty again. Black-haired again consents to his death penalty because he believes he is being punished for the sake of his sublime love. He announces that his life prior to the present was vain and futile. This is the same person in the first episode content of his death penalty because he was defending his chastity. It is unimportant for him that he murdered his rival in the second episode with the same motive as the first one. In the first episode the court allows him to have his choice of death penalty since he submitted himself to the law by free will. This time he requests to be hung from the tree where he first fell in love with Guzal. Black-haired is executed and his lover Guzal also commits suicide in the hospital.
Third Episode: The story is the same as the first episode. Black-haired is a taxi driver and Blond man is Guzal’s lover. The assumption is that the first situation has continued but will only take a different turn. This time also Black-haired becomes informed by the old man. He follows Blond man and in a quarrel gets defeated by him. Blond man can kill him but instead he tells him: “We are not born in this world to kill each other so I won’t kill you. I am willing however to be killed by you for the sake of my love.” Black-haired lets Blond man free and arranges for their wedding reception. Stunned at the repetitive and contradictory yet similar occurrences the judge resigns from his post, attends the wedding and expresses his reasons for resignation as such:
“Whenever I deliberate on the critical results of the convict’s actions I condemn him but when I pay close attention to the particular reasons underlying any crime I see him acquitted.”
The wedding ceremony ends. Black-haired drives the bride and groom to their house. He gives them his taxi as gift and leaves. Now the two lovers are joined together in safe privacy but none are content. Guzal’s heart rests with Black-haired and Blond man has remained in love and only reached his beloved. Blond man breaks away from Guzal to unite Black-haired with Guzal. On his way he encounters the old man who mistakenly from a distance takes him as Black-haired. Old man apologizes to Blond man that he had to leave their ceremony and confesses that he himself was in love with Guzal. In the final scene Guzal is again at the beginning of the story.
Whether we like the story or find it annoying and whether we like the conclusions or oppose them it does not make any difference in the idea that we are inevitably faced with a philosophical film with love as an application and not its meaning. Blond man and Black-haired in our fiction change places three times for us to see that their actions are similar to each other in a similar position and it is so in the first two episodes. “To show the foreordained condition in one’s behavior.” In the third episode it is different; “to show the relative role of man’s freedom.”
The presence of the judge is another evidence for this story to be philosophical. Who is he? Is his role for real or is it symbolic? In the first trial he condemns Black-haired to death and states: “You had no right to murder someone in defense of your chastity.” He claims that the law defends people’s rights. In the second episode he condemns Black-haired again who was defending his own individual rights and tells him: “We defend people’s chastity”. From this point on past all the contradictions he ceases himself and claims: “Who am I to play the role of the opponent in every situation?” This point in the story as well does not result in negating the necessity of judgment to the society’s advantage and the judge says: “When I think about the actions of the convict I have no choice but to condemn him.” and this is exactly what Elias did; killing a child to prevent him from weakening his parents’ faith in adulthood. The judge similar to Moses fails to comprehend the complex enigma of existence and becomes impatient. The judge’s position in the first two episodes is judicial, much too social and expedient. But in the third episode it is a philosophical position. He asks: “How could I have condemned individuals whose preordained conditions are far more effective on their actions than their personal share?” “I carefully thought of each convict and certainly, if I were in their absolute situation I would have behaved exactly as they did”, he confesses.
In my opinion therefore, ‘A Time of Love’ is a pretext to bring forth and discuss a philosophical question that psychologists and sociologists have repeatedly asked of themselves and each other throughout the history of man’s thinking and each to some extent has studied it from a particular angle. Unfortunately however, the questions and answers have poorly affected our collective and individual judgments and social laws. The question therefore, according to our modern exigencies is repeated again as to what role the human condition plays on the development of man’s character and his behavioral reactions? The discussion does not solely involve convicts but insists that supremacy of man requires superior conditions too. Recall the poem:
“If the Holy Spirit casts his blessings again.
Others too will do as the Messiah did.”
It implies that every capable and liberal man needs a particular condition as a divine blessing to become Jesus. There is a sentence in the Holy Koran about Joseph when he was imprisoned and in captivity after the scandal of Zuleikha (wife of the Egyptian ruler). In the Koran Joseph’s innocence is evidenced. Not only to God and Joseph himself but even to the ruler of Egypt; that someone assaulted Joseph because his shirt was ripped on the back. Zuleikha therefore attempted an assault on him not vice versa. Had it been someone else who so heroically escaped the incidence of Zuleikha he would boast that:
“See, I am the one who conquered my concupiscence.” But Joseph said: “I will not acquit myself because everyone’s concupiscence draws him to evil unless God casts his blessings upon him.” Concupiscence therefore is a foreordained condition. To commit a sin a particular condition is required for you to save your skin and that’s nothing but God’s blessings. To look at it differently, Hafiz wrote a poem exonerating Zuleikha:
I realized from the ever increasing virtue that Joseph possessed.
That love forced Zuleikha to forego her chastity.
It means that Joseph’s extraordinary beauty is a foreordained condition for Zuleikha to commit a sin. The same case is mentioned in the Koran: “When the women of Egypt reproached Zuleikha she gathered them and gave them a knife and a citron. Then she called Joseph over and everyone caught their fingers.” It reminds me of a memory from an Islamic scholar. He was asked: “Sir, if you and a beautiful girl were alone together how would you maintain yourself?” He said: “I don’t know I hope God will not bring forth such a situation.” These examples do not serve to negate the human will but to prove that if many of the pious were deprived of God’s blessings, that is to have a special condition to remain innocent, they will otherwise be among the sinful. Our moral and philosophical pride therefore does not suffice us to analyze, acquit or condemn ourselves without considering our condition.
B – Logic of the mind, logic of the heart
Those who have faith in the logic of the mind mention principles that like strong pillars bear the weight of their beliefs. For example, remember this famous principle of rationalists that “The whole is greater than the part”. Everyone agrees that the universe is greater than our earthly planet and the planet is greater than our country Iran. Our room is a smaller part of our whole house and our eye is a small part of our head. From this viewpoint our lover is a small part of all lovers of the universe and even our love is a small part of our greater life that bears many other things. Is every moment of mankind’s life and the choices he makes based on this logic or principle that “The whole is greater than the part”? If everyone’s love is a smaller part of their whole life how is it that all real lovers of the world sacrifice their whole life for that small love of theirs? Does this deed stem from their insanity or irrationality that they do not differentiate between the whole and the part or are they logical but in a different way? I believe that they pursue the logic of their heart. A kind of logic that is as strong as the rational mind. It can easily be this principle: “The part is greater than the whole.” Morris Meterling was asked to describe love. He replied: “To see the beloved as vast as the universe and the universe as trivial as the beloved.” That means to equalize everyone’s existence with his love. I accepted this logic but I doubted its caliber; that “Love means to regard the beloved as greater than the universe and the universe as smaller than the beloved.” And if that is false, how does a real lover sacrifice his whole life for his love? Is it worth it to sacrifice two equals for one another? What benefit is resulted from it then?
One who consents to martyrdom because of an ideology, an aspiration, a divine or even a material love, in his heart he does not sacrifice his greater existence for his love as a small part of it. His sacrifices this minute whole for that greater part because according to his heart’s logic this part is greater, more valuable and precious.
In ‘A Time of Love’ Black-haired in the first episode is in love with his wife and attempts to murder his rival and accepts the danger of death. In the court as well he consents to death penalty. His motive: “I am content because I have defended my chastity.” According to his mind’s logic his wife or as he calls his chastity is a small part of his life and existence because a part of his life can be recalled when he was just a child and therefore possessed no chastity. How does this 2-year old chastity or love become more prominent, worthier and greater than his past, present and future? But it is as such and he makes his whole life smaller than his love He is content too and does not get caught in contradiction. In the second episode Black-haired sacrifices his whole life for a forbidden love that previously he opposed it in another person. He committed murder and received the death penalty. This time again from another angle and with the logic of his heart he made that choice. Again he sacrifices a small whole for a greater part. Were these people able to attempt as such if they followed anything but their heart? In brief: Blond man by the same virtue follows his heart, takes a risk and sacrifices his whole life that he regards as petty for his love that he finds greater. With the death of her lover in the first and second episodes Guzal looses a part of her whole life therefore assumes an end for herself and commits suicide.
If that was not the case we would’ve assumed all characters of this story were insane and not only the people of this story but all material and divine lovers who have died for their love throughout history were insane and we would suppose that other than the followers of the ‘essence of life’ who are quite rational anyone who sacrificed this principle called ‘life’ for a tributary be it an ideology, an aspiration, love or anything else is insane and illogical. I remember since my thinking life started and I began to study and understand materialism for instance and heard about the communists who died for their ideology, I kept asking this question of myself and others that: “Although it is logical that the religiously inclined sacrifice their life for their faith in afterlife but how do the materialists that believe death is the end of the line still take risks and face death?” To my disappointment I did not hear a convincing answer neither from them nor their opponents. Until I resolved the issue as such: They follow their hearts. In their hearts too a part of their existence is greater and more precious than their whole small life. I essentially came to believe that people follow their hearts in life more than they do their minds. In everyone’s labyrinth of the heart everything is different in measure, value and worth. I even suppose that we easterners follow our hearts more than westerners do and our little and big choices stem from this predicament.
‘A Time of Love’ is about the equal value of the logic of the mind with that of the heart or even the superiority of the heart over the mind in real life. This is not some kind of appraisal on my part. It is an ignored reality. I won’t yet elaborate on the looks of the film’s characters and their loves but the fact that these people are so in love that they die for it is dear to me otherwise if they enjoyed their love affairs and fled, feared or complained they wouldn’t be worth the devil’s spit and why would their actions be worth a philosophical study?
Not only the story’s main characters-Blond man, Black-haired, Guzal and the old man but even Guzal’s mother although attempting to advise her daughter with her mind’s logic has an interesting confession: “Dear, life is not all about love. I have experienced this three times.” It means that for three times she assumed a part of her life as all of it and followed her heart. The judge with his resignation also submits to the logic of his heart.
None of them however have been commissioned to love. Zuleikha was smitten by Joseph’s beauty. Their love was not in their control. Very well, how about their lovemaking? Was this one in their control? This is also different depending on every case and it goes back to every individual’s predestined fate or free will. Refer to mitigations of Sharia laws on different instances of forbidden loves. In one case the penalty is stoning to death and in another it is only whipping. The distance between she who gets stoned with the one that gets scourged is perhaps the distance between two different conditions and that has been accounted for in religious laws.
C – The characteristic of love
An Iranian proverb suggests that love blinds the eye and believes that Majnoon (Persian mythical lover) does not see Leili’s (Persian mythical beloved) ugliness because he is blinded by love otherwise he would have never fallen in love with her. Victor Frankel the renowned western psychologist and author of the book ‘Man in Search of Meaning’ merely finds the lover as being able to see and believes that a lover has the ability and talent to see all the beauties and goodness in the beloved that God has bestowed her and he who does not love is blind. To see Leili’s real beauty obscured to everyone, one first has to madly fall in love as Majnoon did. I believe that love lacks any attribute. Neither it is characterized as blinding nor does it grant vision. Love is not an independent entity in the universe and its existence depends on the essence of love. In the universe we only have lovers. Love is an abstract noun like whiteness. Whiteness does not exist in the universe. What there is are white walls, papers and shirts. Take digits for example. There’s not a 2 in the universe. There are 2 pencils, 2 apples and 2 pomegranates. We therefore have no love per se to give it an attribute so to distinguish the lover from the non-lover. The generous grants everything to his love upon reaching him. Even in the apex of his love he bestows his love to his beloved or leaves his beloved to another lover whom he thinks better tops him. Whether love brings sacrifice or selfishness is also a question in vain. Love is not a being to have a fixed characteristic. Every lover loves according to his own trend and there are as many loves and attributes associated with it as the number of the lovers and their qualities. Blackhaired in all three episodes is in love. Twice he loves his legitimate wife and once his illegitimate mistress. But he manifests different behaviors, none related to the essence of love but to his class of character derived from his special condition. The example vis-à-vis him is the old informer man who in reaching his beloved puts him in repeated danger. Can it be claimed that the old man is not a lover? Or does it suffice to say that he is not a brave and devoted lover? Whatever the attribute of his love, it is his personal characteristic.
By the same virtue I assume that we don’t have criticism as an independent entity in the world of art and cinema. There’s merely a critic and his opinion. I don’t expect therefore that if a rogue writes a critique he shouldn’t badmouth. What comes out of the jug is what’s in it. The kind and fair critic writes kindly too without absolutism. And the cheap critic will write a superficial and ridiculed critique. Again based on the logic of ‘A Time of Love’ I believe that each one character is not completely responsible for the good and bad in them and their criticism.
Their training and existing condition is far more important and if the Divine blessings are cast upon us we too will have people like Truffaut.
Material love and Divine love
Truth is as much as your little brother deliberates on the difference between material and divine love he fails to find the exact meaning. He refers to books and quotes but no knot gets untied. He constantly asks himself: “Do scholars mean that love of God is divine and love of mankind is materialistic?”
Is love of the pious divine and the poor material?
Is a man’s love of his male friend divine and his platonic affection to a woman materialistic?
Is our love for our daughters and mothers-since there’s no sexual desire-divine and our wife material?
Is the love of our wife after marriage divine since it is religiously legitimate but prior to obtaining household furniture and renting a house material?
Naturally I have resolved one thing for myself and that is to suppose sexual needs as material and earthly without labeling it as love.
I think Guzal is in love without having sexual problems or in need of promiscuity. The reason: At the hospital she objects to her mother: “why didn’t you let me choose my own love?” Her deeper problem is lack of freedom, her natural right. She objects to a predestined decree that her mother has imposed on her.
Her mother’s choice was based on simple pecuniary reasons: Certificate of completion of military service and owning a taxi. This is where Guzal regrets: She wished that the other one had the same financial security because it is unimaginable for her that apart from her mother’s prerequisites for marriage she could have married the husband of her choice.
Guzal seeks her own freedom; freedom experienced by her own choice of love. She is well aware that she will only live once and this time unlike the fictitious story of ‘A Time of Love’ life will not repeat itself. She therefore desires to have freedom of choice. It is so crucial for her to do so that when she’s lost the chance she chooses death. If she were promiscuous she would have pursued the other lover not death. Can we identify her as a whore? If that’s so please specify Zuleikha’s characteristic in the story of Joseph as well. And if you find this story and the type of characters detrimental for the Islamic society please elaborate on how the story of Joseph and Zuleikha in the Koran, God forbid, not harmful for the Islamic society. And if you believe the conclusion reached in the story of Joseph and Zuleikha creates expectation of a behavior opposite to what Zuleikha did and it is a manifestation of her futile action for us to learn a lesson, please pay attention to the pre-final sequence of ‘A Time for Love’ that follows the same intention; the scene where Guzal and her beloved have finally united with each other, seeming to have found what they had sought:
Blond man: We are finally together.
Guzal: But I am still not happy.
Blond man: What is happiness?
Guzal: I don’t know.
Philosophy Of "Time Of Love"
Director's note on the film "Time Of Love"