But there is no evil

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German title But there is no evil (German title)
(old German festival title: There is no evil )
Original title شیطان وجود ندارد
( Sheytan vojud nadarad )
Country of production Germany , Czech Republic , Iran
original language Farsi
Publishing year 2020
length 150 minutes
Director Mohammad Rasulof
script Mohammad Rasulof
production Mohammad Rasulof,
Kaveh Farnam ,
Farzad Pak
music Amir Molookpour
camera Ashkan Ashkani
cut Mohammadreza Muini ,
Meysam Muini

But there is no evil ( Persian شیطان وجود ندارد Sheytan vojud nadarad / Scheitan vodschud nadarad , 'Satan does not exist'; international title: English There Is No Evil or alternatively German  There is no evil ) is a feature film by Mohammad Rasoulof from the year 2020 . The film consists of four episodes , which deal with the death penalty in Iran in different waysand are only loosely linked.

The world premiere took place on February 28, 2020 as part of the competition at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival . There the film was awarded the Golden Bear , the main prize of the festival.

The cinema release in Germany is planned for November 5, 2020 by the film distributor Grandfilm.


The film consists of four stories that vary the themes of “moral force and the death penalty”. They are only loosely connected with each other narrative and each end abruptly:

1. There is no evil

The 40-year-old Heshmat is a loving and conscientious family man. In the afternoon he picks up his not strictly religious wife Razieh by car from her workplace at a school. Both take care of everyday errands. Preparations still have to be made for a wedding to which Heshmat and Razieh are invited. They pick up their little daughter from school and the family goes shopping together. Heshmat visits his frail mother and in the evenings he eats pizza with his wife and daughter in a restaurant. Before going to bed, he helps Razieh dye her hair and takes medicine.

At around 3:00 a.m. he gets up to go to work. While he is making breakfast in a small office, small red lamps light up on the wall. When their color changes to green, he pushes a button, whereupon the trapdoor opens under four delinquents in the neighboring room. The men sentenced to death die by hanging in a prison.

2. She Said, "You Can Do It" (Eng .: "She said, 'You can do it'")

The young Pouya has just started the compulsory two-year military service in a prison, where he has to share the room with other colleagues. Successful completion would bring him closer to the goal of getting a passport and leaving Iran with his girlfriend Tahmineh. But he is afraid of one day accompanying and killing a prisoner sentenced to death on his last walk.

When he is actually chosen, Pouya tries to do everything in his power not to have to carry out the order. He hopes that his brother will transfer him, and one night he offers money to a colleague who has a sick sister. Some men are upset that there are no laws in Iran, instead money and nepotism ruled the country.

When Pouya is actually assigned to accompany a convict on his way to the execution of the death penalty, he almost collapses. Then he takes courage and overpowers an armed guard in the toilet and ties him up. With his weapon he takes two other servants hostage in an office. He finally manages to escape from prison, where Tahmineh awaits him with a car a little further away. During their escape, the Italian song Bella ciao can be heard from the car radio .

3rd birthday (German "birthday")

Javad, a young soldier, has received three days' leave from military service. He travels to a small village near the Caspian Sea to meet his fiancée Nana on her birthday. Javad bought a ring because he wanted to ask for her hand. He plans to leave Iran with Nana, while his fiancée would prefer to stay and renovate the late grandmother's house as a new home together.

The birthday celebrations are overshadowed by the death of a close friend of Nana's family who was once her mentor. They want to bury the dead in the closest family circle. When Javad sees a photograph of the deceased, he takes refuge in the forest and tries to drown himself. He is found by Nana, to whom he confesses that he is responsible for the death of the acquaintance. He had pulled the chair from under the feet of the delinquent and political activist and thus initiated death by hanging. For that he had got a vacation and could visit his fiancée.

Nana wants to hide the sensitive information from her family. At dinner, Javad makes the planned wedding proposal. The next morning he visits Nana at a nearby lake, where he left his military uniform to dry. Nana ends the relationship and says that she will miss Javad.

4. Kiss Me (Eng. "Kiss me")

Bahram and his wife Zaman have been living in seclusion in the highlands for 20 years, where they have neither a telephone nor an Internet connection. Both do some farming and raise honey bees . One day, Bahram receives a visit from his niece Darya, who grows up in German-speaking countries and, at the request of her father Mansour, is to study medicine. But she is still undecided about her professional future. By chance, Darya learns that Bahram, like his wife Zaman, also studied medicine, but is not in the profession. Although he does not have a driver's license, he drives his niece near a small town where she can use her cell phone to make contact with her father in Europe.

Darya notices that her uncle is seriously ill and has a bloody cough. On a hunting trip, Bahram tries to teach her to shoot and later to force her to kill a fox. But Darya cannot bring herself to shoot a living being and fled to her aunt, shaken. Zaman tells her the truth that Bahram is her birth father. He wanted to inform Darya about this before he died. During his military service as a young man, Bahram had threatened a guard with a weapon and fled. After she was born, Darya was brought to her uncle in Europe. When her mother tried to follow with the help of smugglers, she was killed. Bahram refused to have his wife's alleged murderers executed. Darya, dismayed, wants nothing to do with her birth father and insists on her immediate departure. In the middle of the highlands the car with Bahram, Zaman and Darya suddenly stops after Darya noticed a fox and got out of the car.

History of origin

Mohammad Rasulof in 2017

The Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasulof, who lives with his family in Hamburg , had his previous film Lerd (لِرد/ Alternative title: A Man of Integrity ) at the 70th Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section , where it was awarded the main prize. Rasulof told of a northern Iranian farmer and fish farmer who was about to be evicted from his land after a company bribed local officials. The director was aware that he had violated the Iranian censorship guidelines and that this could lead to consequences. On the return journey from Cannes to Iran, Rasulof had his passport withdrawn at the airport in his home country. As a result, he was convicted of "propaganda against the state" for his last three films and was sentenced to one year in prison on July 20, 2019, but was initially released. In addition, he was not allowed to leave Iran for two years or be a member of any political or social organization during the same period. Rasulof had traveled from France to Iran because of concrete plans to shoot a film. Nevertheless, he remained hopeful: “[...] as long as I can make films again soon, I can also depict the reality that is around me. That is my job and it gives me hope, ”said Rasulof.

Although Rasulof was sentenced to prison in 2019, he shot But Evil doesn't exist in four different places. Some of the filming took place in real locations as well as in places that could symbolize a country about which little is known. Rasulof's producers Kaveh Farnam and Farzad Pak said they had received permits in Iran to film the film. The director was not in custody, nor was he placed under house arrest. Farnam and Pak did not reveal exactly how they had done it, but there is no evil to be completed and submitted as a competition film to the Berlinale. The critic Hannah Pilarczyk ( Spiegel Online ) speculated that the four episodes had been declared as individual short films and not as parts of a complete work. Hanns-Georg Rodek ( Die Welt ) assumed that the script had not been censored and that Rasulof was "most likely being monitored by the secret police".

Rasulof himself said in an interview via Skype that every day during the filming he started to check his cell phone to see if the Iranian judicial authorities had sent him a text message to inform him of the court ruling. A message had arrived a week before the end of the film shoot. Rasulof had been sentenced to a two-year prison term. However, he does not yet know when exactly he will be due to go to prison.



After the Berlinale premiere, the last film shown in the competition, But the Evil Doesn't Exist, was received mixed by the international specialist critics and not necessarily traded as a co-favorite for the main prize. The film was the eighth best of all 18 competition films with 2.6 out of four possible stars in the international reviews of the British trade magazine Screen International , while the US contribution Never Rarely Sometimes Always by Eliza Hittman topped the list with 3.4 stars. The opposite picture emerged in the review of the local rbb film journalists, where But evil does not exist with four out of five possible points topped the list of bear favorites just ahead of the German contribution Berlin Alexanderplatz by Burhan Qurbani (3.9 points).

Katja Nicodemus ( Die Zeit ) , the only German film journalist from the Screen International -review of reviews, awarded to But Evil doesn't get two out of four possible stars and thus, together with three other colleagues, the lowest rating. She took the film title in relation to the subject as "ironic" or "sarcastic" and criticized Rasulof's film as "too parable to convey anything about the current mood in Iran". Nevertheless, she perceived the film as a “brutalization” through the “everyday nature of the death penalty” that “eats into people's everyday life”. “But after the second episode at the latest, you wait for the death penalty to reappear. Because the episodes don't build on each other. They do not interlock and do not illuminate one another ”, says Nicodemus.

Fabian Wallmeier (rbb24.de) stated that Rasulof's film dealt with “important moral questions”, but complained that But there is no evil because of its numerous plot twists “overconstructed”. The film is "artistically [...] insignificant" and does not stand in the tradition of strong Iranian competition entries such as the Golden Bear winners Nader and Simin - A Separation ( 2011 ) from Asghar Farhadi and Taxi Teheran ( 2015 ) from Jafar Panahi as well as the unprivileged remaining Khook ( 2018 ) by Mani Haghighi .

According to Philipp Stadelmaier ( Süddeutsche Zeitung ) sketch But there is no evil in the first two episodes “the contradictions in the life of those who carry out the death penalty”, while in the last two Rasulof shows “that one can always defy orders”. It is not one of the best entries in the competition, but according to Stadelmaier it is one of "the most resistant".

Andreas Kilb ( Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ) looked after the final Berlinale award ceremony in But there is no evil, there is no deserved winner of the festival. In addition to its narrative quality, the film also has a moral quality that sets it apart from most of the contributions at this Berlinale. Rasulof brings "an unconditional love" towards all of his characters, regardless of whether they are victims or perpetrators. Hannah Pilarczyk ( Spiegel Online ) also praised the film. Rasulof is driving the “strength of Iranian cinema to crystallize the political upheavals of the mullah regime as personal moral dilemmas”. But there is no evil “to extremes ”. Similar to Fabian Wallmeier, she noticed a “penchant for punch lines” in all episodes. The film leads more often "on melodramatic terrain" in which the director "takes everything narrative" and leads away from political realism. In direct connection, Pilarczyk recalled a small scandal at the press conference on February 28, 2020, after the non-public cinema screening for the press. An Iranian journalist had noted that official posts would be used instead of conscripts to carry out the death penalty in Iran. The film team led by producer Kaveh Farnam then entered into contradictions and stated that they had made a feature film and not a documentary. The film also has no relation to the current events in Iran.

With regard to the first episode, several media drew comparisons to the term “banality of evil”, which the philosopher Hannah Arendt had coined in connection with her 1961 book Eichmann in Jerusalem .

Jury ratings

Berlinale Jury President Jeremy Irons (2014)

Jury President Jeremy Irons praised But there is no evil in his introduction to the Golden Bear as a “gentle and stunning film”. “Four stories that show the web of an authoritarian regime interweave among ordinary people and drag them to war, to inhumanity. A film that asks questions about our own responsibility and the decisions we all make in life, ”said Irons.

Two other independent juries at the Berlinale also awarded the film prizes and each gave a similar statement in their justifications. The Ecumenical Jury ruled that But there is no Evil, “a fundamental criticism of the death penalty in general and the repressive Iranian system in particular” based on an outstanding narrative, “of great cinematic quality and with convincing performance”. The deeply unsettling "atmosphere of threatened political persecution" that was depicted was also highlighted. The jury of the working group Kino - Gilde deutscher Filmkunsttheater (AG Kino-Gilde) praised the drama as the most surprising and entertaining film of the 2020 competition. “Powerful, emotional and deeply human, the film tells us stories that show us what makes a person special and sensitizes us us to reflect our lives in this world. Politically and ethically, the film broadens the view into a world that is alien to us, ”said the jury, who also emphasized the performance of the actors.

Postplay for the director

A few days after the Berlinale triumph, Mohammad Rasulof was asked by the Iranian judicial authorities to begin his one-year prison sentence. He was informed by SMS on March 4, 2020 that he would report to the responsible judge, as his lawyer Nasser Sarafschan announced a day later in an interview with Agence France-Presse . Sarafshan had advised his clients not to comply with the request and to lodge an objection. At present, due to the current coronavirus epidemic , the Iranian judicial authorities have given instructions to grant prisoners prison leave and not to enforce prison sentences until March 19, 2020. This is to prevent further infections with the dangerous virus in the country's overcrowded prisons. Iran had previously had problems getting the spread of the coronavirus under control. Schools and universities have been closed and major events canceled by the authorities. Likewise, 54,000 prisoners are said to have been granted leave.

The Berlinale published a press release on March 9, 2020 in which it protested the director's sentence. “We are concerned about the detention order against Mohammad Rasoulof. It is shocking that a director is punished so severely for his artistic work, ”announced the dual leadership Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian . "We hope that the Iranian authorities will reverse the judgment."

Distribution in Iran

In the past, many of Rasulof's films were not shown in Iran. The producers of the film assume that Even But Evil Doesn't Exist will not be released in any Iranian cinema. Should this happen, one of the two producers offered the prospect of distributing the film free of charge.


Mohammad Rasulof (connected via video chat), daughter Baran Rasulof and the Berlinale trophy won

But there is no evil, won the Golden Bear , the main prize of the film festival , at the Berlinale 2020 . Actress Baran Rasulof received the trophy on behalf of her father, who was not allowed to leave Iran . Rasulof's directorial work was also awarded the Ecumenical Jury Prize and the Gilde Film Prize.

Web links

Individual evidence

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  2. a b Berlinale Press Conference 2020. In: facebook.com. January 29, 2020, accessed on February 2, 2020 (24:37 min ff.).
  3. a b c d Bahareh Ebrahimi: The nice murderers . In: neue-deutschland.de, March 1, 2020 (accessed March 5, 2020).
  4. a b Dirk Peitz: The Revolutionary Guard want an Islamic Hollywood. In: zeit.de. July 28, 2019, accessed February 3, 2020 .
  5. Tom Grater: Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof sentenced to one year in prison. In: screendaily.com. July 25, 2019, accessed February 3, 2020 .
  6. a b Hannah Pilarczyk: Forbidden - and disturbing. In: Spiegel Online . February 29, 2020, accessed March 4, 2020 .
  7. ^ Hanns-Georg Rodek: The Golden Bear goes back to Iran, price for Paula Beer. In: welt.de. March 1, 2020, accessed March 5, 2020 .
  8. a b Ben Dalton: Eliza Hittman's 'Never Rarely Sometimes Always' finishes top of Screen's Berlin 2020 jury grid. In: screendaily.com. February 29, 2020, accessed on February 29, 2020 .
  9. Ranking: Which film has the best bear chances? In: rbb24.de. Retrieved March 4, 2020 .
  10. Obscene parade of massacres and mass murders. In: deutschlandfunkkultur.de. February 28, 2020, accessed March 4, 2020 .
  11. Fabian Wallmeier: Is there rice, baby? In: rbb24.de. February 28, 2020, accessed March 4, 2020 .
  12. Philipp Stadelmaier: Violent conclusion. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung. February 29, 2020, p. 19.
  13. Andreas Kilb: Humanity and its opposite. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. March 2, 2020, No. 52, p. 11.
  14. Sheytan vojud nadarad - press conference in full length. In: berlinale.de. February 28, 2020, accessed on March 4, 2020 (34:30 min.).
  15. Mohammad Rasoulof to feature at Berlin Film Festival with 'There Is No Evil' . In: broadcastprome.com, January 30, 2020 (accessed February 2, 2020).
  16. Berlinale closing evening / award ceremony. In: berlinale.de. Retrieved on March 4, 2020 (1:05:51 a.m.).
  17. a b Awards from independent juries. In: berlinale.de. Retrieved March 4, 2020 .
  18. Berlinale winner Rasoulof is to serve prison sentence in Iran. In: berlinale.de. Retrieved March 4, 2020 .
  19. The Berlinale protests against the detention order against Golden Bear winner Mohammad Rasoulof. In: berlinale.de. Retrieved March 9, 2020 .
  20. Berlinale closing evening / award ceremony. In: berlinale.de. Retrieved on March 4, 2020 (1:17:20 a.m.).