The Rotterdam Film Festival is always a good place for Iranian cinema. Tehran was one of this year's hot spots, and there was also master-in-exile Mohsen Makhmalbaf's new film, 'Scream of the Ants' ('Shaere Zobale-Ha'), a philosophical road movie full of beautiful imagery and thought-provoking ideas.
An Iranian couple, burdened with very Western problems, travel to India on their honeymoon searching for spiritual enlightenment. The woman is religious, while her husband, a former communist, is an atheist.
On their journey, which confronts them with India's grave poverty and suffering, they meet various 'wise men', all of whom defy their expectations. One of them, a man who is supposedly able to stop a train with his eyes, turns out to be a cripple who is put on the tracks by beggars so they may receive alms from the forced-to-stop train's passengers. But then, the first person they met, a journalist, had already warned them that miracles don't exist - except life itself.
At one point the woman wonders whether her own journey can be justified when it aggravates the suffering of others. Taking this idea to its extreme, she imagines hearing the scream of the ants she crushes beneath her feet with every step she takes...
While the ongoing debates are perhaps too theological for some tastes, the stunning documentary cinematography of the 'real' India, combined with the leasurely pace, make for an exotic journey by itself.