‘The Runner’ (1984) Review
Every once in a while, a movie will cross your path and just absolutely rock you. One that overwhelms with emotions and ideas. The Runner by Amir Naderi is one of those movies.
This powerful 1984 film – one of the first films post-Iranian Revolution to attract worldwide acclaim – follows Amiro, a young orphan with a face that makes you want to cry. He has just a few friends and a baby chick that keeps him company as he pores over his favorite magazines. He’s made his home in the captain’s quarters of a beached freighter, and his life consists of hustling: collecting glass bottles to turn in for cash, selling ice water, and shining shoes for foreigners. He stares out over coastal Iran and yells at passing ships to take him away, to rescue him from his life. He’s infatuated with airplanes. He chases after trains. He’s obsessed with all these things that signify an escape.
Amiro surrounds himself with foreign objects. Coke cans, Fanta bottles. He frequents the docks where foreigners sit under Marlboro branded umbrellas, people walk around wearing Lee and Wrangler shirts, and where you can hear Elton John crooning over the radio. He reads American aviator magazines and frequents a vendor that sells film periodicals. All things that signify another world.
And he’s always running. Running on the beach. Running after thieves that do him wrong. Running after his dreams. To survive, he must be a good runner.
Iran has a tradition in humanist filmmaking, spanning back to the late ‘60s with the eruption of the Iranian New Wave, which chose to take a neorealist, intellectual, philosophical, and artistic approach to cinema. In post-revolutionary Iran, films turned to using children to explore complex subjects and to critique government and culture. To avoid censors and new restrictions, children became symbols and metaphors.
The Runner runs with this. And while sticking to its neorealist roots, it’s alive with lyrical moments and it astounds with its stunning images and evocative cinematography.
The beauty of cinema is you don’t need money to travel. You can go anywhere in the world, explore different cultures, and find commonality with people you may never meet in real life. You don’t need to be from Iran to relate to feeling lost, stuck, and alone. To wonder what lies ahead in your future. And with the future of Iran’s citizens in the forefront of the news these days, it’s important to remember that a government is not its people. There is beauty and love and life to be found everywhere.
I urge everyone to run and see the new 4K restoration of this at the Riviera Theatre, which screens it starting December 16.