Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s 1996 film A Moment of Innocence (Nun va Goldoon) is a semi-autobiographical reconstruction of an actual event in his life. As a teenager, Makhmalbaf stabbed a policeman while trying to steal his gun during a revolutionary rally in Tehran. Decades later, he attempted to find the policeman in an act of penance. His film pays homage to this event.
Makhmalbaf plays himself and (somewhat more remarkably) the police officer does the same. Both older, the film recounts their reunion and decision to create a film about the event. They set about doing so, casting younger versions of themselves and reimagining events from varying perspectives. But it’s not a documentary. The performances seem natural and unscripted, but the plot has been carefully planned. Banned in Iran, the movie won critical plaudits overseas.
It all might sound groaningly abstract, but Criticker users were almost unanimous in their praise, earning A Moment of Innocence a spot in our list of Neglected Gems. The film has a lightness and simplicity which make its complex themes easily accessible. You can’t help but ponder how much is real and how much imagined, and you’re unsure how much to trust what you’re watching. In his 4 1/2 star review, Slant’s Eric Henderson says that “A Moment of Innocence feels wispy and effortless, yet resonates heavy with the Proustian understanding of how memories only amplify and enrich with time”. A unique cinematic experience, at the very least.