“A great brown burn just over the heart”
It’s not surprising that Kasra Farahani‘s cinematic adaptation of Donald Barthelme‘s short satirical story Concerning the Bodyguard would attract Salman Rushdie as its narrator. Given the author’s history after publishing The Satanic Verses and having a fatwā issued by Ayatollah Khomeini calling for his death, taking part in a film that questions the disparity between a hired bodyguard and his political principal in a Middle Eastern state would be the type of thing he’d jump at the chance to participate in. There’s a chasm the world over separating those with means and those paid to protect them—one so wide you’d imagine there would be many more inside job assassinations than there are. After all, if the man tasked with saving someone’s life isn’t compensated enough to trade his own in the process, who truly has the power?
Farahani brings the story to life through a series of silent vignettes of mundane activities shared by the working class and aristocratic elite in gorgeous slomotion and captivating composition. Rushdie’s narration consists of open-ended questions, queries positing whether the characters onscreen have ulterior motives or whether the man counting on their expertise would think to wonder the same. Where’s the ceiling to what someone would do for another? Does it lower or rise if that person is merely engaged in an occupation to pay bills and not involved because his politics mirror that of the party he assists? It’s almost a certainty that the patron is less than savory and definitely assured that he can’t be bothered to think about the wellbeing of anyone but himself. Money will pay for his family and money will provide him safety.
It’s an intriguing tale of power and assumptions as we wait for chaos. The whole thing could be a psychological experiment, asking us whether or not the constant mention of a “new bodyguard” spells disaster in the waiting. The fact that I did places a personal spin on what’s at its core a simple list of what ifs delivered matter-of-factly and with little emotion. It’s the audience who decides the tone, our personal beliefs and historical/cultural backgrounds projecting prejudices and preconceived notions upon a banal (yet beautiful) sequence of events and quantifiable statistics factoring in. The fuse is lit and we decide whether it fizzles or ignites after the story ends. Is the bodyguard complicit, loyal, traitorous, innocuous, all or none? Is he thanked or blamed or simply forgotten? And can he forgive himself when his principal proves a monster?
Courtesy of TIFF