SUBTRACTIONDirected by Mani Haghighi
Cast: Navid Mohammadzadeh, Taraneh Alidoosti
Official Selection, 2022 Toronto International Film Festival
It’s raining in Tehran. While stuck in traffic, Farzaneh (The Salesman‘s Taraneh Alidoosti) swears she sees her husband Jalal board a bus. Following him to an apartment, she becomes convinced he’s having an affair. When she confronts him, he literally shows her the receipts of his alibi: he was in a different town entirely. Probing this mystery further, Farzaneh and Jalal discover another couple who look exactly like them. Over the course of SUBTRACTION, illicit meetings, subtle flirtations, and acts of vengeance unravel these dopplegängers and their precarious equilibrium.
The latest in Mani Haghighi’s genre-agnostic directorial career, SUBTRACTION is a Hitchcockian sci-fi psycho-thriller wrapped up in an Iranian social realist film. Trapped in the mise-en-scène of an existential crisis—streets choked with traffic, winding stairwells, long corridors, and rain-soaked windows—each turn down the labyrinth reveals no exit. The viewer begins to wonder whether these two couples are actually one, peering through the looking glass at the better versions of themselves or their partner, knocking on their hidden-away door.
In his director’s statement, Haghighi wrote: “Living in a theocracy splits you in two. You must become two people to survive. A private life, and a public mask. The split seeps into the narrowest crevices of your life, and your every cell produces a simulacrum of itself: a copy that looks just like you. You produce this copy to protect yourself from the brutality around you, but it can turn around and destroy you.” SUBTRACTION is a prescient portrait, not only of a city of doubles, but a city and its double, and the combustible friction that occurs when the two insist they meet.
Co-Presented by the Persian Cultural Center.