The enigmatic first feature by Abed Abest is an elliptical study of cause and effect that traces, in reverse-chronological order, the aftermath of an unwarranted visit between three friends and a mysterious older man.
Abadan, Iran. The night started out harmlessly enough, with three restless young men going out on the town. A little drinking, some horsing around, an impromptu visit to an older acquaintaince whom none of them really know. By the end of the night a catastrophe has occurred and the lot of them are in jail. What happened? What's the story here? Writer, director, and star Abed Abest has found an inventive, peculiar, and very compelling way to investigate what went wrong.
Simulation unfolds in three acts, shown in reverse-chronological order. It also takes place entirely on a soundstage. What sets there are to speak of are skeletal, featureless, and uniformly painted an aphid green. The actors are in street clothes, though all of them wear matching Day-Glo blue boots. The camera buzzes as it zooms and the sound occasionally cuts out. Who is watching this? Who is framing it? There are mysteries here. Lack of artifice becomes its own kind of artifice — one that heightens senses, seizes attention, and raises questions.
Abest's startling feature debut may cause us to reach for something familiar for context. And indeed, the discrepancies in the characters' testimonies recall Rashomon, while the production design recalls Dogville. Yet neither precedent provides us with a key to interpret Abest's vision, which makes room for dream-like intrusions, a musical interlude, and knowing allusions to the last several decades of Iran's tumultuous history.