The Rules of the Game



Offside (2006) ritualises Iranian social rules. It explores the metaphorical possibilities opened up by the storyline — the girls’ illegal attempt to watch a football match — to structure the mise en scène.

There is barely any difference between the time of the story and that of the plot. The film does not develop a chain of events to arrive at a resolution: it follows the girls in a single situation. Any determinism in the solution of the conflicts that flourish is avoided because of this choice.

The comedy has occasionally an absurd tone — for example, when one of the girls goes to the toilet and a soldier makes her use a player’s poster as a mask. The social norms are tested throughout the film and so is the notion of authority. Panahi structures the staging from successive demarcated spaces and the scenes reveal and consider the prospects of invasion and evasion that this spacial demarcation entails. Concrete and symbolic as a game.

Offside was banned from the Islamic Republic of Iran, just like the two previous films directed by Jafar Panahi: Talaye sorkh (Crimson Gold, 2003), a story of a man humiliated by social injustice that lies behind a murder and a suicide; and Dayereh (The Circle, 2000), intertwining stories of seven Iranian women with a criminal past due to prejudice and oppression.