Anciently, Sunni Islam forbade all depictions of the human face and figure. Shiite Islam has a similar prohibition which seems not to have been quite so absolute. Both these prohibitions are based on the commandment "Thou shalt create no graven image..." so that no one should give even the slightest portion of the worship due to Allah to anything else. The intent is to prevent one from committing shirk, the gravest error a Muslim can fall prey to: partitioning or dividing up the unitary nature of Allah, or worshiping multiple deities. Throughout the history of Islamic civilization, artists have had to contend with the implications of these prohibitions. One result is the extraordinary world of Persian miniatures. In modern times, with the advent of photography and the spread of print media, portraiture has become more widely tolerated. In this film, two impoverished young art-lovers, artists themselves, have grown obsessed with finding the painter of a work bearing an enigmatic portrait of a woman. They want to find out what the painting meant to the painter. This has a bearing on the painting's degree of legitimacy (or lack of it) within the constraints of present-day Islamic law. Along the way, they encounter rare volumes of mythology which may have some bearing on the issue. By all reports, Iranians viewing this film considered it to be very profound, and it created quite a stir in Muslim intellectual circles.
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