Astonishingly ambitious in breadth, 2-D animated feature “The Last Fiction,” the first such film entirely realized in Iran, refashions ancient Persian mythology into an inventively lyrical and epically exhilarating saga where divine forces battle mystical wickedness. Cultural distinctiveness, in tandem with stylistic boldness, renders it an unprecedented feat. Thankfully, the proficient English-language dub aids in our ability to register the plot’s intricacies.
Bloodshed and palace intrigue abound in this mature tale, adapted from poet Ferdowsi’s centuries-old “Shahnameh (The Book of Kings),” in which the kingdom of Jamkard has fallen prey to Ahriman, a cunning entity that instigates all of mankind’s vices. Intrepid “chosen one” Fereydun, a distraught hero-in-the-making, bears the fate of a people in the might of his weapon as he seeks to avenge his parents’ deaths. Cruel adversary Zahhak, the land’s cannibalistic ruler, has a pact with the occult; thus stakes are of monumental scope.
Director Ashkan Rahgozar maneuvers the medium with expertise, introducing human characters that evoke classic Japanese anime series in the vein of “Saint Seiya” with virtuously devised sequences resembling fluid ink on paper that detail key narrative exposition. Lavish production design paired with rich painterly backgrounds completes a horde of embellishments that prompt forgiveness for the figures’ occasional stiff mobility or the aesthetically out-of-place CG monsters.
Mournful songs pierce one’s heartstrings, heightening the poetic spirituality these accounts of honorable warriors epitomize for Iranians. Rahgozar’s one-of-a-kind exploit distills perennial wisdom inside a thrilling film vessel to be shared abroad.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Playing: Starts Oct. 18, Arena Cinelounge Hollywood