By Michael Roddy
BERLIN (Reuters) - Iranian director Mani Haghighi says his Berlin competition movie "Ejhdeha Vared Mihavad!" (A Dragon Arrives!) is a hodge-podge of genres ranging from crime film to "X-Files", but he trusts viewers will find it an entertaining and thought-provoking mix.
"It's a mess, yeah, it's a mess," Haghighi told Reuters in an interview on Friday, the day of the film's festival premiere. "The idea was to make a mess and see how it goes."
"As I went along I realized that maybe one genre wasn't going to do the trick and it would be just the same old boring thing.
"So what would happen if you put science fiction, paranoia 'X-Files'-type things together with Philip Marlowe, Dashiell Hammett detective stuff plus Jules Verne and Tintin and Indiana Jones and then some Iranian films and local color and put it all together?
"The idea was to make it as complex in terms of genre-bending as possible."
The film, which is in competition for the Berlin film festival's main Golden Bear prize to be awarded on Saturday, suggests it is aiming for a Monty Python-esque slant by stating at the outset it is "a true story" but delivering anything but.
What viewers get instead are some striking images of the hulk of an immense wooden ship stranded in a desert landscape in Iran, a shaggy dog story of a political dissident who has either hanged himself or been murdered inside the ship, but who has left intriguing scribblings all over its interior walls, plus police agents driving around in a vintage Chevrolet Impala.
And there is something under the earth in a cemetery right outside the ship that causes a localized earthquake to occur whenever a dead body is buried there.
Is it a dragon, and is that some kind of metaphor for Iran's complex political and social situation?
You may seek a deeper meaning from Haghighi, but this is his response: "What is going on is this very distinct possibility of a political message but no message.
"So it's meant to make you feel exactly the way you`re feeling without actually saying it and then you leave the theater thinking about my film for a long time. That's the idea."
As for the Chevrolet, which may be the only true part of Haghighi's "true story", he says it was chosen because its design is cinematic.
"It was 1963 when the story begins and so we had to look for cars that seemed appropriate for that time period and I thought of the Impala because the Chevy Impala has a very distinct cinematic quality because it's in Cinemascope.
"It's really wide and really short and it fits the aspect ratio of the film perfectly."
(Reporting and writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Richard Balmforth)