Under the Shadow

Running time: 84 mins
Release Date: 30th September 2016
Certificate: 15
Director & Writer: Babak Anvari
Cast: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi, Ray Haratian, Hamidreza Djavdan and Soussan Farrokhnia
Distributor: Vertigo

Tehran, 1988: the Iran-Iraq war rumbles into its eighth year. The bombing campaigns focused on the city, coupled with the country’s bloody revolution, slowly tear a mother and daughter apart. As they struggle to stay together in the midst of these modern terrors, a mysterious evil stalks through their apartment, threatening their grip on reality.

Under the Shadow is mainly set in a block of flats in Tehran during the Iran–Iraq War. The background is one of never-ending war, with Iraq having begun its ‘strategic bombing’ campaign of Iranian cities. It effectively depicts a beleaguered and tired civilian population, largely through a strained family relationship.


The film is subtle and restrained for its first hour. Its focus is on the character of Shideh, a woman forced to abandon her medical studies after the Cultural Revolution and now finding it impossible to take them up again in a country that has become deeply socially conservative. Constrained, frustrated and virtually confined to her flat at the start of the film, her physical isolation increases as the film progresses. She is nevertheless a determined, capable character.

Her daughter Dorsa is a strong-minded character too, and is ably portrayed in her childish single-mindedness. As the nexus of strange events start to coalesce around Dorsa, an atmosphere of strangeness and malevolence, nightmare and fever, starts to build. The scares are carefully rationed and instead Under the Shadow depends on mood. The film’s ‘monster’, built up by hints and allusions, is startling and original when it finally does appear.

By: TN.  Score: 9/10

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