Originally Published April 24, 2016
Ever since his conviction, Jafar Panahi has violated his suspension on film-making multiple times under the veils but in Taxi, he finally took this violation into the public space. The film opened with a frame of the roads of Tehran. Moments later on revealed that this was a security camera mounted on the dashboard. The next scenes that we will see are crimes unveiling itself in front of the camera which reminds us of the functions of such surveillance devices: to capture criminals perpetrating their crimes.
In a way, such is the limit of these devices: crimes need to happen first before these cameras fulfill their purpose. Isn’t it why we never really feel completely “secured” or “safe” even when having these kinds of devices installed in our premises? It’s because we have to see that it works! We have to see that it captured a crime and a criminal!
That is what Panahi’s Taxi has given: the spectacle of surveillance. While still keeping his meta-filmic traditions, Panahi served the surveillance camera and gave it what it wants in redundancy, even revealing his passengers as accomplices by having them contribute footage from their own handheld devices. Panahi and his collaborators gladly took the reversal of the criminal who, instead of avoiding the surveillance camera, are willing to be captured in its footage.
In most cases, security cameras are installed on places where crimes are most likely to occur, thus the second and most important idea behind it: someone should and must watch over its footage. This function, similar to the Orwellian tyranny, has given Panahi’s Taxi a sense of great discomfort, the physical taxi itself and the conversations inside it as a reaction to this tyranny. It isn’t hard to notice that Panahi’s character has shown much restraint from talking: he is aware that somebody is watching. This silence is probably the most straight-forward image of the attack that the film has done.