Complete without men

Shirin Neshat's "Women without Men"


Complete without men
by Maryam Womenfound

Women, given enough time, get to a point where they realize they are complete even without men. On Friday night I went to see the LA premier of Women without Men by Shireen Neshat. The treat was that she was there with us, and at the end of the film took some questions from the audience.


A diminutive and soft spoken woman, Shireen Neshat is incredibly articulate and unmistakably passionate about her beliefs, her art and her cause. Her art resonates as globally well as it does because it is a representation of what she firmly believes and has a burning desire to share with the world. Her linguistic skills coupled with her soft voice, make her an ideal ambassador for her own message. Her presence illuminated the movie for an eager audience.

The movie chronicles the life of 4 women. Two of them occupy a worldly life that proceeds credulously anchored in the realistic ways of the world. The two other women live a life that is part spiritual, benefiting from some cinematography and artistic expression. The tale begins with each of them tied somehow to the existence of one or more men. One longs for a man, one is sick of them, another is violated by them and yet another is betrayed by them. In some cases the lines overlap, but each’s life is tied to men in one way or another – at the beginning.

By the end, each comes to a point where they are complete without the man. Perhaps they can, metaphorically, even look back and realize that the men are not as impressive as they seemed and are better left on the sidelines.

Once the curtains were drawn Neshat graciously stayed for a Q and A. Everyone, but one exception, got up to applaud the work and complement the creator, and proceed to ask relevant questions about the movie and its replete metaphoric content. Shireen’s answers were enlightening. For example one person asked what each of the 4 female characters in the movie represented. She confided that each of them represented her – at least a facet of her mind or soul – even though they were all very different and it was their stark differences that propelled the movie.

One woman stood up as the voice of dissent and surprised the audience by boldly declaring that she had been bored through the movie. OK, it wasn’t a fast movie, but I must say that to enjoy the film the viewer or participant must have a curious nature, a comprehension of some of the socio-political issues of our time and an intellect that is willing to engage in exploration. If you’re in the mood for a main-stream movie experience, Shireen Neshat won’t be the right pick – at least for now.

I for one, am willing to see the movie once more knowing now what Neshat’s thoughts were. I’m not a big fan of all Persian movies. But this one was replete with imagery, messagery and thought provoking content from social justice, to economic and political freedom, to the role and place of women in society as a whole, and in Muslim society in particular. If one is open to questioning long standing precepts, this movie lays out a panoply of issues.


Recently by Maryam WomenfoundCommentsDate
Apr 07, 2010
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Persepolis compares to this?

by eroonman on

I have a crush on you too, I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek, but comparing Persepolis to this is not a good comparison. But since you brought it up, P illustrates my point just as well. Again, yet another sad, depressing topic (P was not uplifting at all, when you fast froward to where we are as a nation today, essentially in the same hole she was when she left Iran to come to France and live on the streets etc.), explored ad nauseum, until there really isn't anything to do but cry and cry and cry about it.

That's what seems to be happening in modern Iranian cinema, whether it is a poor girl with a cute lisp, who's lost her shoe and can't go to school, or a blind dahati boy who wants to know what color god is, or this kind of depressing story of 4 hapless, helpless women who decide after it all, that there is something wrong with men, and aslan bikhialesh, I'm better off without one. Really? That's the ultimate resolution? What about true love? Should we really give up on that?

I'm not one of those looking for a happy ending every time, but Jesus, when is an Iranian film going to conceive of one for just once! Are we that hope less? (as in without hope, not hopeless...)

I have to agree with the lady who stood up in the theater at the showing with Neshat. I too am very very very bored.

...And why the hell not a full-on comedy?

Azarin Sadegh

Shahrnush Parsipur's Women without Men

by Azarin Sadegh on

I saw Neshat's adaptation of Parsipur's novel yesterday, and I wish I had seen it on Friday!

First of all, I think this is so crazy that the author of this review doesn't mention the name of Parsipur, not even for once!! And the review mentions only Neshat's name and how each of these women represent a facet of Neshat's life and soul..:-) How can I take the review seriously when it is clear that it is written by someone who hasn't done his/her homework?!!!

Actually, I discovered Parsipur's amazing work pretty recently (shame on me!)...and I think the novel is way better than the movie.

I found that compared to the novel, there were too many changes, but maybe it had to do with budget and the difficulty of creating a world as magical as Parsipur's imagination.

For example, the story line of Mahdokht (the 5th woman) was eliminated...even if she is the most intriguing of the 5 women, and the book starts with her desire to become a tree. Munes had become too political. The tone of the movie was darker than the novel. Unlike the novel's optimistic ending, Zarrin dies of carelessness. We see some new characters injected into the movie; like the Tudehi boy who wants freedom but kills a soldier so cowardly . The rape of Munes and Faezeh by the truck drivers was replaced by a cheaper rape. Amir didn't kill his sister and Munes didn't come back from death twice. Zarrin the prostitute instead of seeing headless men saw faceless men, etc...

Still, I thought it was a gorgeous movie (great shots and images, good acting, dreamy atmosphere), but sometimes I found the deep meaning and the want of the novel's characters had been sacrificed for the sake of average movie goers' interest. Of course, I can understand the reason behind these choices, and so overall, I think Women without Men is one of the best Iranian movies I have ever seen. 

And also Parsipur's novel is the best Iranian novel I've read after the Blind Owl..

Parsipur's writing compares easily with the greatest of today's literature and it is so unfortunate that someone of her caliber does not even have a literary agent to promote her work.


I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek

Eroonman, I love you, but cut the BS.

by I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek on

Sad and depressing? People loved Persepolis. They found humor and irony. If you don't like the tone or the mood of these movies (I agree they are mostly depressing themed), please please create something that isn't. I think you are very talented. You are hilarious. I hope you are applying these talents to such a project. Until then, let's let the Lolitas and Women without Men be.


Yet another "Sad" Iranian Film

by eroonman on

Oh for the day when our comedy and sense of humor wins a film award!

While I do not in any way wish to diminish the work, I am frankly extremely bored by the continued "victim" mentality that our filmmakers seem to be stuck in as the source of their storytelling.

Whether our Lolita's can't read the books they want, or are deprived of attending soccer matches, or in this case 75% of them being in loveless abusive relationships with men who are not men, but common lowly animals, I long for the day when we can tell an actually uplifting, opimistic story, that is funny, poignant and a great connective cord to the greater world we live in.

Now, as a man, all I can do is kill myself, and after that apologize to all the Iranian women who have married "wrong" or are unhappy and unfulfilled with the choice they made, or were made to make, in their husbands.

But, the recent spate of Sad and Depressing Iranian Films posed as trendy art, has now become a very dull and boring and whiny obsessive discussion.


Farah Rusta

Neshat's view of Iranian women

by Farah Rusta on

I don't know about this movie but I found Neshat's perception of Iranian woman has always been a twisted one and one that is more reflective of her own mind than the reality.



Brian Appleton

By the way, Shahrnush Parsipur, the author

by Brian Appleton on

of the novel upon which the movie is based, who also had a part in the film, is argueably the greatest contemporary Iranian author alive today. She has a huge intellect and imagination and I am privileged to be counted as her friend. Out of 13 novels she has written, only two have been translated into English. Her latest novel yet to be published in English is called "Blue Reason" and is about Tehran during the "Silent" Iran Iraq War in the '80's.

 It is a sad statement of our times that an author of her stature has diffculty finding an agent for that work let alone a publisher in these USA. Check out her website at:


Brian H. Appleton


Rasool Aryadust


Must See

by Monda on

Thanks for this great review.