A tragic love story, a fierce indictment of the Islamist regime in Tehran, but most of all, a lyrical elegy replete with symbolic visions, Rhino Season – the new film from Camera d’Or-winning director Bahman Ghobadi (A Time for Drunken Horses) – gains much of its force from its effective images.

Inspired by the fate of a family friend, Kurdish poet Sadegh Karmangar, the film tells the story of Saleh (Behrouz Vossoughi), a poet released from jail after 30 years who goes looking for his wife, Mina (Monica Bellucci), now living with her two children in Istanbul. A celebrity during the Shah’s reign, Saleh, a Kurd, was falsely accused of writing anti-Islamic poems and thrown into jail.

The film takes place mostly in the present. Saleh is given the address of his wife, who left Iran after having been told that he had died in prison. He looks at her lodgings from a distance, wondering whether and how to approach her. Monica Bellucci, better known as a glamour icon, commendably downplays this aspect of her personality, offering an introvert, minimalist, performance, while the striking faces of the two men opposite her convey everything that has to be said better than any dialogue could. 

Dan Fainaru, Screen International