Rosewater: The True Scent of Evil—Movie

If “Rosewater” wasn’t a true story, one could almost see the humor in it. Directed and written by Jon Stewart, based on the book “Then They Came for Me” by Maziar Bahari and Aimee Malloy, “Rosewater” is the true story of Maziar’s 2009 imprisonment in Tehran, where is charged with, among other things, of being a spy for America.


We are first introduced to Maziar (Gael García Bernal) in the London home he shares with his pregnant wife, Paola (Claire Foy). Maziar works for Newsweek and is leaving London to cover the elections in Iran. Iran is his birth country and where his mother (Shohreh Aghdashloo) still lives and with whom he will stay while working there. Upon landing in Tehran he hits it off with his cab driver, Davood (Dimitri Leonidas), who offers to take him around town for the duration of his trip. He agrees, although he is shocked when he discovers that his mode of transportation will be on the back of Davood’s motorcycle. Davood introduces Maziar to some of his more activist friends who oppose the existing Iranian government. While in Tehran, Maziar does an interview with “The Daily Show’s” phony news correspondent, Jason Jones. During the interview, Jones accuses Maziar of, among other things, being a spy for America. Unfortunately the Iranian government doesn’t share America’s sense of humor and for Maziar it’s all downhill from there as word of the interview reaches the government. Maziar is grabbed from his mother’s home and imprisoned in solitary confinement for 118 days. During that time he is frequently and brutally interrogated by someone he refers to as Rosewater (Kim Bodnia) because of the scent of his toilet water. As part of his interrogation Rosewater plays “The Daily Show” video and again accuses Maziar of being a spy. The interrogations are emotionally brutal, the goal being to take away Maziar’s hope of ever leaving the prison alive. Through it all, Maziar has imaginary conversations with his deceased father, who had been imprisoned by the Shah, as well as with his late activist sister, who also spent time as political prisoner. These conversations help bolster his morale immeasurably.

As a first-time feature film director, Jon Stewart does an excellent job in relaying this harrowing tale. Through no fault of their own, the actors are not the stars in this movie…it’s the story…it’s that compelling. Stewart doesn’t paint the villains of this piece with buffoonish strokes. He makes a point of showing that what happens to Maziar is political and what one culture deems funny is completely lost on another culture. He gives us a very good sense of what life is like in Tehran in general and the prison in particular.

Gael García Bernal provides an outstanding, understated performance as do the actors who play his interrogators and mother. But in this case, the story is the thing and quite a story it is.

3 nuggets out of 4



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