Having recently added Women Make Movies on my bookmark list and remembered its last update on Nahid Persson’s documentary, ‘Four wives, one man‘, I was pleasantly surprised to find it on More 4 tonight in its True Stories series; the one that brought ‘Lakes of Fire‘ on British TV. It’s a beautifully shot film about a polygamous marriage living under one roof in rural Iran. The man in the title is Heda, and he had just recently taken Ziba, as his fourth wife and she’s his favourite. The other wives complain while the mother-in-law makes crude comments about her son’s lustful ways:”All my son thinks about is pussy!”.
Heda takes his four wives, Farang, Shahpa, Goli, Ziba, and their 20 kids in a bus for family picnics. Soon he starts building separate family homes for each wife. Fair amount of film time is given to each member of this marriage to voice their thoughts about their circumstances, and each time it’s Heda’s turn, he ends up sounding like a complete ass. Time passes and Ziba yearns for a child. After a failed first marriage to a drug addict, she divorces and finds love in Heda. But soon Heda starts talking about marrying virgins:”They’re the best. They don’t know anything. You tell her it’s day, she’ll say it’s day. You tell her it’s night. she’ll say it’s night.”
Two years later, Ziba has a baby girl and Heda is already tired of her. To make matters worse, all four household are starting to be more than a handful for him. Being the sole breadwinner, he complains about paying bills and even about the motorbikes his kids keep breaking. Like a man who had sold his soul to the devil, he wishes that he had married only one wife. He wants out of this misery, and wishes to be a carefree soul again, and a new young wife can do just that. He coaxes Ziba for her permission to receive a new rival in the family, but she hates the idea. Later there is a surreal scene where Ziba’s 2 year old daughter meets her just as young ‘suitor’. The joyous moment is celebrated in the company of women of the marriage and the suitor’s mother. Ziba is in tears, like mothers do at their daughter’s wedding.
In the last scene, Ziba is seen waking up in the morning and going out to stand by the front door of her home. It is the day the new wife arrives. Heda comes home with the brand new bride on a motorbike. She forces a smile and welcomes them in. The new wife looks a little like Ziba, and she sounds optimistic about her marriage to Heda. She says that love gets people through problems, and I wish I could have that much faith as her.
I found this fascinating. I felt a lot of sympthy for Farang more than any of the others and was a bit narked that much of the documentry was focused on Ziba. I sympathised with her too, but I think Ferang’s story was heartbreaking, especially when she spoke of her eldest daughter, who was forbidden to leave the house.
Yeah, there was a lot more focus on Ziba, but maybe it was because her relationship with Heda was more interesting. Film-makers tend to edit out uninteresting bits.
In a lot of ways I thought the film was good, and was a sympathetic portrayal of the strains in polygamous marriages. If it was done differently, with more flash and sensationalism, the ‘characters’ would’ve looked like freak shows, and become dehumanised.
Could it be a completely different programme if the household did not live under the same roof? In other parts of the world, like in Indonesia and Malaysia where polygamy tends to take a more modern setting, wives live apart from each other, sometimes in different towns, and often do not meet.
Holy crap, this sounds really interesting! Do you have a link to where I can see this?
I’m afraid the only link I know is:
Hope it’s helpful.