Arguably the most exciting and innovate new filmmaking discovery of the 21st century thus far has been Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. His Oscar winning masterpiece A Separation put him on the map internationally, but that’s only one of several excellent films in his oeuvre. Since then, distribution studios have been looking through Farhadi’s back catalogue and giving his past works the releases each one deserves, with About Elly from 2009 finally getting proper North American distribution just last year, after sitting in cinematic limbo for half a dozen years; and later this year, the director’s 2006 outing Fireworks Wednesday will also be getting similar treatment. Needless to say, it’s a terrifically made and highly engaging work that demands to be seen.
Like many of Asghar Farhadi’s films to come after this one, Fireworks Wednesday sees a central everyman thrust into an unconventional social situation where they must put all the pieces together to unravel the truth of what is really going on, just as domestic misdeeds big and small begin to come to the forefront. This time, said audience avatar is Rouhi, a young woman who is quickly approaching her wedding day and working as a servant-for-hire. She soon finds a job cleaning a flat for a warring married couple living within the city, and is forced to not only confront their increasingly defective marriage, but also wonder what’s in store for herself in her own married future. The film is also set on the Persian New Year, more commonly known as “Chaharshanbe Suri”, which roughly translates to “Wednesday Feast”, hence the titular “Fireworks Wednesday”.
With this being the third feature film of Asghar Farhadi’s career, it marked a clear transition for the man’s work and marked the birth of his distinctive style/narrative preoccupations. Starting with this, Farhadi’s films began to explore the Iranian middle class more and focused primarily on telling stories of their experiences in a manner that would feel both singular to their culture while also being digestible and/or relatable for a worldwide audience. This is a career move that would prove extremely beneficial for Farhadi, given his eventual success in non-Iranian markets. Fireworks Wednesday in particular is a fiercely intelligent deconstruction of the Iranian middle class and marital failures, and is just the right amount of balanced and respectful that we’ve come to expect from this master storyteller.
Asghar Farhadi himself explains his preoccupation with this particular set of social structures as follows: “In the modern world, the destiny of a society is determined by its middle class; I wanted to discuss this tier of the society more. The great thing about middle-class stories is that you can at once discuss other rungs of the society.” Certainly this is a viewpoint that most of us in the United States can relate to, as well as many other territories around the globe.
An early masterpiece from a director who would go on to add at least a few more to his resume,Fireworks Wednesday is essential viewing for anyone the least bit curious about exploring cinema from the Middle East, or if you’re in the mood for a good old fashioned domestic-style drama and aren’t bothered by the prospect of reading subtitles (i.e. an intelligent human being). Either way, seek this one out if you have the opportunity.