A mother is haunted by her dead daughter in short film Bahar. This is a ghost story about grief and guilt.
Narges is an Iranian-Glaswegian woman who lives in alone now her only surviving child has left for uni. She was widowed young, and had to raise her kids alone, and when her daughter Bahar was killed in a car accident at 6, it left her with only her son Navid. Now he is gone too, and the house has the uncomfortable stillness of an empty nest. Despite being quite conscientious of dusting Bahar’s room, she ignores the large patches of damp mould growing on her walls.
Whether the haunting is real or just in her mind, the marks on the walls have come to represent the shadow of Bahar in the home. Narges will wake from a dream of Bahar and mistake the marks on the wall for her standing by the bed. Her ghost is not frightening, it is longed for. But as Narges’s persistent cough reminds us, there is a price for holding on, and this way of clinging to the dead is unhealthy and harming her.
The haft-sin she put out for Nowruz has now sat too long. The symbols of renewal, and hope for life ahead, are starting to wilt and rot. The hyacinth petals curl, the apples are bruising, in the mirror we see reflections only of Bahar’s ghost. Bahar’s name itself means spring, expressing not only how was she cut down in her spring, at such a young age, but also that she represented new hope and life going forward for her mother, and her end was the end of those things for Narges. The rotting tableau embodies the stagnation of her grief, now garnering a corrupting air, which denies the natural cycle, and has left her hopeless.
Her son Navid visits home to spend Bahar’s birthday with his mother, but he has life pulling at his sleeve, whether it is friends or uni work. He tries to be there to support his mum, but the intensity of her grief a decade on shames him, as though he should feel guilty for moving on. It’s clear the way she is wed to her grief is not only harming her, but her son too.
She says, “Your maman joon used to tell me that having children was feeling guilty for every choice that you make”. Narges is stuck between the guilt of moving on from Bahar’s death, and the guilt of poisoning Navid’s life with her grief. Ultimately, she must a decide which she chooses.