Farhad Delaram worked as a scriptwriter for Iranian state television before he started as a director. Together with producer Dena Rassam he developed the idea for his seventh short film “Tattoo”. In 2017 Delaram’s “Away from home” was selected among the 10 best shorts in Iran.
A young woman wants to extend her drivers license. Little does she know, that her tattooed hand will lead to further, unpleasant investigation.
“Tattoo” is a clever film that illustrates bureaucratic procedures. From the beginning, the young woman is put under interrogation. Although no one claims that this is actually the case, she is guided through various stages of authorities and has to justify each time her tattoo and her broken middle finger. The interrogators are not squeamish and take advantage of their position, forcing her to strip down. Interestingly, Delaram is not only putting men in the position of power, but he is also showing the derogatory methods of a female investigator. Therefore the director is not reducing this on a male-female power imbalance, although in the last investigation, the woman is facing a three men commission at the police department and the film hints a looming physical abuse.
But this does not really matter in the end. In the police station, we see different people of both genders being victimized. “Tattoo” is more about the process itself. A creeping spiral that everyone can be sucked in. As the movie continues, the viewer can feel how the situation gets more and more critical. Like the woman in the movie, we cannot escape this fate. “Tattoo” creates an unsettling feeling of helplessness.
The clinical, well-structured shots by Mohammed Reza Jahanpanah and sets by Ali Pouya Ghasemi refer to aspects of division and hiding. For example, the recurring scene of a closing door or the partition of the shots by placing objects like curtains or windows. The symbolic cinematography contains a fragmentation of space. Also, the repetition of certain situations and sequences can be seen as a never-ending nightmare. The camera itself is often positioned in a frontal and stiff angle, as if trying to pin down the woman in one specific pose. The clever use of cinematography, the well-composed signature sequences and tableaus are highlighted in the final scene in a dolly-zoom shot, dramatizing the dead faint of the victim.
Overall, I like the concept of symbolism in this movie. The women’s crushed middle finger, being unable to flip the bird at somebody, is the most obvious one and adds ironic humor to a severe matter. “Tattoo” manages to create a subtle feeling of uneasiness and presents a strong and unconventional female character, played by Behdokht Valian, that is ultimately broken.