Though proscriptions on the gaze in the New Iranian Cinema have been analyzed to some degree, similar proscriptions on the female voice have remained a virtual terra incognita. This article theorizes the unique structure of the voice operative in the New Iranian Cinema through what the film sound theorist Michel Chion calls the acousmêtre, or the acousmatic voice. By bringing together Chion, Lacan, and feminist film theory, the article analyzes the acousmatization of the male voice in Gabbeh (dir. Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Iran/France, 1996) and Banoo-ye ordibehesht (The May Lady, dir. Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Iran, 1998). A close examination of Islamic, especially Shiʻi, legal theories of the voice is undertaken, in which the female voice is considered part of her ʻawra, or parts of her private body that are deemed shameful and should be veiled or concealed before unrelated men because of their seductive powers. The author argues that Gabbeh and The May Lady deploy the acousmatic voice to subvert the logic of veiling the female voice (through the acousmatization of the male voice) and also to circumvent the prohibitions imposed on staging male-female erotic configurations on-screen. The article finally contributes to film theory, and feminist film theory in particular, by demonstrating how New Iranian Cinema, largely owing to the Shiʻite logic of the veil or system of modesty, reverses the voice in classical Hollywood cinema, in which the female voice is often synched up to the body while the disembodied voice (i.e., the acousmatic voice and voice-off) is almost always male.
Farshid Kazemi; The Object-Voice: The Acousmatic Voice in the New Iranian Cinema. Camera Obscura 1 May 2018; 33 (1 (97)): 57–81. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-4336839
Download citation file: