The film focuses on a religious family guy taking it upon himself a “holy quest” of punishing prostitutes by means of murdering them in the city of Mashhad in Iran while a journalist investigates the crime. I believe Holy Spider, which was based on real-life events that happened in the 2000s, is a film that deserves to receive some contemplation.
I decided to write about Holy Spider after I read a review which made me realise there are people present who dislike the film as much as I like it. I am well aware that I am commenting on the film far from a technical point of view, but I must say, perhaps because I am more familiar with the film’s contents, I disagree with Adam Nayman’s opinion about it, which you can find here.
First and foremost, I would like to say that I absolutely loved the spider symbolism throughout the film. Perhaps the most important part of this, the name of the film, “Holy Spider,” points to the holy place the animal holds in Islam and how, albeit wrong, Saeed believes himself to be the protector of the religion and the society just as the spider provided protection for Prophet Muhammad. The serial killer Saeed hops onto his motorbike and roams around the streets of the city, depicted as a spider web, and hunts “flies.” He then proceeds to wrap these flies in his web, the web being a carpet, and leaves them to rot. Besides the commonality of this wrapping motion, I would like to point out the importance of carpets within the Iranian culture as well as weaving’s association with spiders in Greek mythology. The figure of one of the prostitutes weaved into the carpet on the poster, poses a challenge for the spider who caught a fly too big for himself.
Secondly, I would like to write about an observation I made regarding the plot. The first time I heard about the film, was during dinner with some friends. Although I had decided against watching the film the moment I heard the word spider come out of my friend’s mouth, his next words evoked my curiosity. After explaining the plot and talking about the director for a bit, he said it would be good if I watched the film with someone and not alone because it was quite heavy and unpleasant. Upon this comment, like a stubborn kid, I went to watch the film by myself.
The film started, and I started waiting. Something so monstrous had to happen that I would not know what to do with myself. But it did not happen. Sixteen women got murdered, several sexist words were uttered, a journalist got kept from doing her job and some women got harassed but that moment never came. Then I realized that all these moments which were unbelievable for my French friend were not so out of the ordinary for those of us who wake up to the news of a new honor killing every single day. Unlike what the review I mentioned at the beginning suggested, saying the film was “sensational” and over the top at times, Holy Spider portrays life just as it is. It is terrifying that we are so used to a situation that is so atrocious for the western audience! Right after I watched the film, there were gatherings of people in support of Andrew Tate in Romania and, of Kadir İstekli and Yusuf Ziya Gümüşel who had sexually abused a six-year-old girl in Turkey, just like it happened in Holy Spider, which once again proves the contemporary aspect of the film.
The fact that the film ended with a video clip portraying how Saeed’s son saw him as a hero and took an example of his crimes provides an important commentary on life. The mindset that oppresses women while hiding behind a notion of religion that has been twisted to fit the oppressor’s intentions, is passed along generations. How is it possible protect women from this twisted mindset, as well as the children who will become the oppressors of this evil act? While not being able to provide a concrete answer to this question, I believe it is important to embrace this question and keep it in our minds in the long run. This way, if we were to stumble across the traces of the beginning of such evil, we might be able to intervene.
For the reasons I mentioned above, Holy Spider is an important film for the modern day audience in the sense that it provides an opportunity for some to understand the lives they are not familiar with and for others an opportunity to revoke their numbed feelings to such atrocities.