Nowhere to Go: Conflict in the Polygamous Family

Rebecca Joubin

Four Wives - One Man

A Film by Nahid Persson

A Women Makes Movies Release, 2007, 76 minutes

The opening written statement that in the Quran a man is enjoined to marry two, three, four wives – if he can afford it – and that polygamy is practiced mostly in rural areas in Iran, prepares the viewer to witness victimization of women in the village. Farangi introduces herself as the first wife of Heda, Goli as the second, Shahpar as the third, and Ziba as the fourth. The film shows how each time harmony is found and the wives turn into unlikely allies, a new wife joins, disrupting the household once again.

When the film begins, Ziba has recently joined the household and the other women express their displeasure at the newest wife, saying they were like a family before she came along. Yet Ziba, too, becomes vulnerable when she is not able to produce a child. As time goes on, discord seems to have turned into harmony when we see Heda and the wives and children going on outings at the beach or enjoying picnics together. However, just as the family finds this balance, Heda begins to speak of bringing on a fifth wife. Despite the uncharactersistically bold statements of Heda's mother, now crippled, this is a film where women are stripped of their agency, and shown as merely passive observers of their destiny. They have nowhere to go, but are forced to remain under the abusive control of their husband. 


This review appears in Al Jadid, Vol. 15, no. 60 (2009)

Copyright (c) 2009 by Al Jadid

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