By Roozbeh Misaghi | Drama
There's a treasure hidden in the village. And it causes turmoil among the villagers.

In a small remote Iranian village, a public announcement is made: there is a box buried in the fields, one that will make whoever finds it rich beyond imagining.

The box is found, and immediately sparks a series of murders among those competing to claim it. Later at night, three of the villagers — father Nematkhan, his son and another villager named Morad — break into the home of the villager who won it, take the unearthed box and murder the holder, hiding his body.

The father and son hide the box in a plan to let the fuss die down, but don’t tell Morad where they buried the box. All three participate in a deception to fool the villagers, in the hopes of diverting attention long enough to take the box to town themselves and claim their reward. But then the fundamental mistrust that has risen up in the village unleashes a spiral of violence and greed that unravels the small community, paving the way for the greatest deception of all.

Director and co-writer Roozbeh Misaghi, along with co-writer and cinematographer Sama Raoufi, has crafted a short drama that takes the elements of a thriller and transmutes them into a compelling meditation on the darkest capabilities of human beings.

Part of the philosopical bent of the film comes from the visual approach, which eschews flashy camera moves and quick-cut editing in favor of a more naturalistic look and beautifully-composed wider shots that allow the action to play out at a slower, more realistic rhythm of life. While the film’s form isn’t documentary-like, it achieves a sense of realism, capturing the static, hard-scrabble milieu that the villagers live in, and just why they are so willing to abandon their responsibilities and risk everything for a financial quick fix.

The performances, too, exist in a muted, understated register, keeping the dialogue minimal and focusing instead on the lies and silences that begin to permeate the interactions between the villagers.

Using a mix of professional actors and non-professionals in the cast, as well as a remarkably quiet, unadorned sound design, the film — which was made in secret in Iran — achieves a pared-down versimitude that allows space for the viewer to observe and come to their own conclusions, especially as the tricks, manipulations and double-crossings escalate and leads to a conclusion that questions just what it takes to push human beings towards the darker end of the spectrum of morality.

“Turquoise” never tells the audience just how the box got there and if it indeed has any “treasure,” so the film’s initial premise may seem absurd, arbitrary or almost like a particularly cruel thought exercise. But it’s a testament to the film’s excellent craft and commitment to realism that any potential absurdism is elevated into a compelling study of corruption.

Greed, lies and maniputation, even in the smallest social strata, are like a growing, mutating virus, creating a system that cannibalizes itself in order to appease its appetite and sustain itself. In this film, it’s confined to a village, but this village is just a microcosm of humanity — and greed can ravage its way through any milieu, no matter what the scale.

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