Film Review: The Warden

Nima Javidi’s The Warden is a well-crafted drama that combines thrills with pensiveness. A fairly simple premise is executed with skill.

Major Jahed is the warden of a prison which is about to be demolished. In line for a big promotion, Jahed is responsible for transfer the prisoners. When one goes missing, Jahed and his staff race against time to find him…

Nima Javidi’s second feature is set in 1960s Iran. The film takes place at a decaying, empty prison; Javidi makes the most of the physical space, tying it to the mindset of the characters. The Warden takes place over the course of a day, and writer-director Javidi composes a picture of liberty, persecution, and personal choice within this context.

The prisoner is elusive to both protagonist Jahed and to viewers. We are situated with the warden as he struggles to discover what has happened to the missing prisoner. Viewers are given a picture of his character as the narrative develops, which gets more complex as time goes on. Javidi positions the film as a struggle between the authoritative supervisor and the falsely condemned convict. The shift of power emerges as the dominant theme of The Warden

It is only in the final of the film that viewers begin to see the action from a different point of view. This shift in viewpoint effectively ramps up tension, and provides Jahed with an antagonist we can see. The protagonist has a reputation for being severe, and Javidi leans on this initial assessment when developing a more nuanced character.

The film’s final sequence is fairly potent; the abrupt silence and gentle reintroduction of sound works well. It is poignant that viewers, and Jahed, finally see things from the other point of view. Javidi ends the film is a satisfying manner. 

The use of colour is striking. The opening shots establish the setting well, with the blue tone contrasting with the red lights. Javidi portrays the setting as a foreboding place immediately. There are some nicely framed shots, and the score is used efficiently at various intervals in the film. Navid Mohammadzadeh delivers a strong central performance as Jahed.

The Warden is a solid sophomore film from Nima Javidi. The filmmaker touches on serious issues without letting them dominate the narrative.

The Warden is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.