I’ve been a fan of Shoreh Aghdashloo’s since seeing her in Ramin Serry’s beautiful film, MARYAM, which dealt with the repercussions to an Iranian-American family of the Iranian hostage crisis. She delivers an even more powerful performance in THE HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG as the sheltered wife of an exiled Iranian colonel engaged in a legal and moral struggle with an American woman over a house. When I talked with Aghdashloo on November 11, 2003, we talked about her role in MARYAM, her detour into journalism, and her admiration for Isadora Duncan.
This is a poignant tale about what the idea of home means to people, how they will cling to it desperately, what happens when they are ripped from it unwillingly. Case in point, a struggle over a house on the Northern California coast. The owner, Kathy Niccolo (Jennifer Connelly), is a directionless young woman who has was wrongly evicted from it due to a clerical error by the country, and the man who buys it at auction is Colonel Behrani (Sir Ben Kingsley), an Iranian exile, who used the last of the money he brought with him ten years earlier.
The script by Vadim Perlman wants neither of these people to be villains. Prideful, perhaps, leading lives kept secret from their respective families, Kathy that her husband has left her, Behrani that he works as a highway laborer and gas station cashier. They are, rather, intended to be seen as victims of circumstances that may or may not entirely have been out of their control. As Behrani’s wife, Aghdashloo gives a subtle performance that reveals a tender heart and nurturing soul. A star of great magnitude in her native Iran, one of her only other English language performances, in Ramin Serry’s MARYAM, is well worth seeking out for its equal power.
A consideration of the very human longing for roots is at once timely and timeless. As is the other theme of how preconceived notions about other cultures are a recipe for disaster for everyone involved. They both deserve better than the cheapening melodrama afforded them in HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG.