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The Great Yawn Aliyar Rasti Review

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The Great Yawn of History | 2024 Berlin Intl. Film Festival Review

The Great Yawn of History | 2024 Berlin Intl. Film Festival Review

Cave of Forgotten Dreams: Rasti Hunts for Spiritual Treasures

The Great Yawn Aliyar Rasti ReviewThere have been countless films about the quest for fortune and glory, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a film about treasure hunting less esoterically inclined than Aliyar Rasta’s debut The Great Yawn of History. Two men from different religious backgrounds go on a mysterious odyssey to find a cave where someone has hidden gold coins, though this is dubiously based solely on one of the man’s dreams. Like a roadtrip version of Waiting for Godot, this eventually turns into an allegory about the search for a different kind of bounty. If neither quite reaches a sense of divination or even self-actualization one might predict, Rasti utilizes the vintage aspects of fable to present a fractured portrait of contemporary morality.

Beitoallah (Mohammad Aghebati) has dreamt of coins in a cave somewhere north of Iran, but his religious beliefs dictate he cannot remove them from their location by himself. Searching for a non-believer, he writes out job ads on the back of counterfeit money, and finds an abundance of potential applicants. However, he can’t really be up front about what the job is, which means he’ll be needing only those who are desperate enough to follow a stranger through the countryside for an unspecified amount of time. Eventually, he finds Shoja (Amirhossein Hosseini), a young man who fits the bill. As they set off on their journey and aren’t successful after exploring several caves, Shoja begins to question Beitoallah. But they have the misfortune of running into some shrewd locals who deduce they’re searching for something lucrative, and soon they encounter unexpected company on a journey which begins to feel a lot more strenuous than either anticipated.

The Great Yawn Aliyar Rasti Review

Beitoallah’s scheme to locate a non-believer is inherently the film’s most comedic segment, a montage of interviews where his mysterious line of questioning finally leads him to Shoja, a homeless man who we eventually learn was abandoned by his parents. The forsaking of children soon becomes an evident subtext, which extends to Beitoallah’s quest as he aligns his ‘visions’ with spirituality.’ Ultimately, he’s also left behind and led astray by a spiritual father. His ‘hiring’ of Shoja is akin to the Jake Gyllenhaal/Riz Ahmed relationship in Nightcrawler (2014). While not malicious, nor a charlatan, there’s still an aspect of madness in his unhinged scenario, blindly stumbling from cave to cave. Shoja is a veritable avatar in tow simply because he’s got no better prospects, either financially or religiously.

As their journey unfurls (they introduce themselves as eco-tourists to increasingly suspicious locals), their rapport is also reminiscent of the Corneliu Porumboiu comedy The Treasure (2015), in which two men tear up a backyard to locate riches supposedly buried there. Like that film, the level of discretion is paramount, for interested parties who begin to tail them like ambulance chasers also disrupt their goal. Ultimately, The Great Yawn of History brings them to fitting, ultimately logical moments, in ways which don’t equal an intriguing beginning. Having directed two short features and a number of music videos, it’s a surprisingly pensive presentation for Rasti’s first feature, which also benefits from Soroush Alizadeh’s cinematography, making good on the visual promise of an aptly named cave.

Reviewed on February 22nd at the 2024 Berlin International Film Festival – Encounters section. 93 mins.

★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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