Vahid Vakilifar’s Taboor is a film defined more by what’s absent on screen than the images and sounds themselves. There’s very little spoken text, and only one scene that might be dialogue rather than voiceover. It takes place in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic Teheran, populated sparsely to the point of desolation. The protagonist is an elderly man who sleeps in an aluminum foil room and goes about wearing an aluminum foil suit performing maintenance tasks—helping two women pushing a car, trying (in vain) to exterminate cockroaches, repairing machinery—and other odd errands, over the course of one night.
Taboor contains heavy hints of Tarkovsky’s Stalker, in particulars—a lone man traversing a deserted, post-apocalyptic landscape—and tone. There’s a section in the middle where the protagonist travels to the home of a well-to-do little person that resembles a microcosmic version of 2001, or perhaps a lost sequence from David Lynch. I mention these connections because, if Taboor has a downside, it’s in its inexorable connection to other earlier films. Vakilifar uses signifiers from them to build a framework, the gaps between which his film takes place.
Seldom acknowledged, but no less true for that, is the reality that apocalypse narratives and the fascination they hold within art are tied very tightly to personal mortality. This is why every generation is convinced that it will be the one to see End Times, be it through the judgment of the risen Christ, Y2K, or zombies. In Taboor, the causes of the dystopia in which the near-deserted Teheran finds itself are never specified, because what has happened to everyone else is beside the point. The protagonist’s physical decline, foretold by the brush with mortality his seemingly only friend has, is the apocalypse.
As a film, Taboor doesn’t quite live up to the implications of its subtextual ideas, being as it is so textually beholden to existing works. But it is an engaging watch, and at a mere 84 minutes a concise one. Fans of very long single takes should find especially the first quarter or so of Taboor enjoyable. It’s not quite up to the pictures it tips its hat to in terms of quality, but there’s plenty to appreciate, both in its lines themselves and between them.