The Runner: The Criterion Collection [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Criterion Collection
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (7th April 2024).
The Film

"The Runner," also known as "Davandeh," directed by Amir Naderi, stands as a remarkable piece of Iranian cinema, known for its stark portrayal of isolation and the search for identity amidst the urban landscape of Tehran. Released in 1984, the film is a testament to the artistic prowess of Naderi and the depth of storytelling achievable through the medium of cinema.

Set against the backdrop of a bustling metropolis, "The Runner" follows the life of its protagonist, a young boy named Amiro (Madjid Niroumand), who ekes out a living by running errands for shopkeepers across the city. Through Amiro's eyes, Naderi crafts a poignant narrative that delves into the complexities of human existence, exploring themes of alienation, survival, and the struggle for autonomy.

One of the most striking aspects of "The Runner" is its visual storytelling, collaborating with cinematographer Firooz Malekzadeh whose masterful use of cinematography captures the frenetic energy of urban life, juxtaposing sweeping shots of Tehran's crowded streets with intimate close-ups of Amiro as he navigates his surroundings. The result is a sensory experience that immerses the audience in Amiro's world, allowing them to feel the weight of his solitude and the urgency of his quest for purpose.

Central to the film's narrative is Amiro's relationship with the city itself. As he traverses its labyrinthine alleyways and bustling markets, Tehran becomes both his playground and his prison. The towering skyscrapers and bustling crowds serve as constant reminders of his insignificance in the face of urban anonymity, while the narrow alleyways and hidden corners offer fleeting moments of solace and escape.

At its core, "The Runner" is a character study that explores the complexities of Amiro's psyche. Through his interactions with the denizens of Tehran from the gruff shopkeepers who exploit his services to the sympathetic strangers who offer him fleeting moments of kindness Amiro grapples with questions of identity and belonging. His journey is one of self-discovery, as he seeks to carve out a place for himself in a world that seems determined to swallow him whole.

Naderi's direction is complemented by a standout performance from the film's lead actor, Madjid Niroumand, whose portrayal of Amiro is both poignant and nuanced. With little dialogue, Niroumand conveys a wealth of emotion through subtle gestures and expressions, drawing the audience into Amiro's inner world and eliciting both empathy and admiration for his resilience.

However, while "The Runner" is undoubtedly a triumph of visual storytelling, it is not without its flaws. Some critics have pointed to the film's minimalist narrative as a weakness, arguing that its focus on atmosphere and mood comes at the expense of plot development. Indeed, the film's slow pacing and lack of conventional narrative structure may not be to everyone's taste, but for those willing to immerse themselves in its world, "The Runner" offers a richly rewarding experience.

"The Runner" stands as a testament to the power of cinema to transcend language and culture, offering a universal exploration of the human condition. Through its evocative imagery and nuanced performances, Amir Naderi's masterpiece invites audiences to reflect on their own journeys of self-discovery and the quest for meaning in an ever-changing world.

Video

Presented in 1.37:1 mastered in 2K and presented in HD 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression, Criterion has delivered a transfer that has been digitally remastered and approved by the film's director. While the overall result is quite good with little to no artefacts or print damage, I found that the image look a little faded. This could just be the elements that were used to master this image. Blacks look a little muddy at times, but detail looks good, and sharpness is mostly consistent.

Audio

A single audio track is included in the Persian LPCM 1.0 mono, this is the film's original audio track, the track does try to do some heavy lifting with sound design but doesn't quite cut it considering the limitations of the mono audio. The bustling metropolis that is Tehran doesn't feel as expansive and "busy" as it should. Dialogue is clear and without any distortion which is about as much as we can expect. Optional subtitles are included in English only.

Extras

Criterion has included a decent collection of supplements, below is a closer look.

First up us an all new 2024 conversation between director Amir Naderi and filmmaker Ramin Bahrani (21:24) in this interview the director talks about his love of cinema and his influences, on the themes of his films including this one.

Next up is an audio interview from 2022 with Amir Naderi and actor Madjid Niroumand, moderated by programmer and Rialto Pictures founder Bruce Goldstein (37:35), the participants talk about making the film, on working with each other, and the challenge of making a film during the Iran-Iraq war among other things.

The disc also features "Waiting" a 1974 film by Amir Naderi (47:35) that also includes an afterword by the director (13:22). Another minimalist film to explore.

The film's original theatrical trailer (1:24) is included.

The package includes a booklet with an essay by critic Ehsan Khoshbakht.

Packaging

Packaged in clear Criterion keep case.

Overall

The Film: A Video: B Audio: B Extras: A Overall: B+

 


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