I got Naked Island flashbacks, people transporting water to different islands. Rahmat is a tear collector, witnessing dramas on each island he visits. He gains a stowaway named Nassim who tries to steal from him, they meet a blind man scavenging dead birds, a woman is sent screaming into the burning sea… death at every stop of the boat. Besides the tear bottle there’s a bag where people discard their sorrows, and a series of jars where they whisper their secrets. A rogue painter is tortured and forced to declare that the sea is blue, then sent away with the tear collector so his nonconformist views won’t spread. Another girl is sent away for being too beautiful.

I watched an old DVD of a then-recent film, for some reason transferred from a used print. I had to rewind when I saw lightning during a conversation about how it never rains – just a jagged film scratch. In the end, Rahmat bathes the feet of a government man who only asks “if everyone’s well.”

Michael Sicinski in Cinema Scope:

In a bold move that is quite the opposite of what we see from too many concerned filmmakers on the left, Rasoulof joined his increased anger and frustration not with greater literalism or artlessness, but with a shift into the allegorical, mythic register. While the bitterness and protest underlying The White Meadows are crystal clear, the film explores the state of Ahmadinejad’s Iran through a series of absurdist horror vignettes, staged against an unforgiving Lake Orumieh, and witnessed by a man condemned to merely observe and chronicle, but helpless to intervene … Rasoulof weaves this tale of interlocking allegories through visual as well as dramaturgical means. This is a strikingly beautiful film, simultaneously lush and austere, characterized by expansive, elemental landscapes and seascapes. Within these broad fields, human forms are enveloped, knocked hither and thither, struggling to maintain balance and dignity.

Kasra is a writer being monitored by the government, secretly working on his memoirs, which include an incident when he and a bunch more writers were meant to be killed together on a bus. Khosrow is an amateur hitman with a sick kid at home, working with his heavier, more confident partner Morteza. They go around calmly tormenting and killing Kasra and everyone he knows in order to shut them up.

G. Cheshire:

In his striking earlier films, Iron Island and The White Meadows, Rasoulof deployed a distinct version of the visual lyricism and quasi-mystical symbolism of other Iranian films. Manuscripts Don’t Burn offers no such cinematic poetry. It is bluntly literal, almost shockingly so given the context … The kinds of killings depicted in the film appear to be based on the “Chain Murders,” in which roughly 80 Iranian intellectuals were murdered between the late ‘80s and 1998 … Rasoulof has done something that Iranians will instantly recognize: drawn a comparison between the Shah’s regime and the present one.

I keep mistakenly calling it Manuscripts Also Die.