Two & Two: a study of how an individual dedicated to the truth can live in a police state society

Babak Anvari, “Two & Two ” (2011)

Notable for its minimal grey and dreary setting which throws all the audience’s attention onto the dialogue, the plot and the film’s themes, “2 + 2 =5” is a mini-study of repressive totalitarian government. Somewhere in Iran, in a boys’ school a brusque male school-teacher (Bijan Daneshmand) enters a grimy classroom where twelve young students are already seated. Through an intercom on the wall next to the blackboard, the headmaster’s voice admonishes the students that changes are a-foot and they are to obey their teacher without question. The teacher then writes 2 + 2 = 5 on the blackboard and compels the students to repeat what he has written several times over. Two boys object, saying that 2 + 2 = 4: the first boy is quickly put in his place by the teacher but the second student stands his ground bravely. Three senior boys are brought into the classroom to intimidate the student as he continues to assert that 2 + 2 =4. He is eventually brought down by imaginary machine-gun fire from the seniors, as if before a firing squad, and the other boys are horrified at the carnage. As the senior boys drag out the boy, the remaining boys are forced to repeat continuously after the teacher that 2 + 2 = 5 and to write down that sum. However the constant repetition cannot pry into one boy’s mind no matter how many times the repetition is bashed into his brain.

For such a short film, obviously made on the proverbial shoe-string budget, the plotting is deeply affecting as a student is forced to decide between pursuing the truth and blind conformity to the values of a virtual police state. The drab appearance of the classroom and the clothes worn by the boys emphasise their lack of individuality. The older students are clearly a metaphor for the security forces who enforce arbitrary laws, themselves often drawn from the society they are to police with brutal violence. Close-ups are frequently used to differentiate one boy from the next and to reveal their individual natures. Throughout the film the defiant student is subjected to harassment from the teachers and the senior students, and wins no support from his fellow classmates. After his death, the teacher dismisses him as rubbish and proceeds to drum the New Mathematics into his students over and over. However much he gains in outward loyalty though, his lesson has little effect on some students who decide for themselves what to believe.

The film addresses the question of how an individual with inner integrity and clear values can exist in a dysfunctional society that demands absolute obedience to its ideals and ideologies. How is one to pursue the truth, and what value does truth have in a society that spurns it? Once the truth has been found, how is one then to spread it and make others aware in the face of continuous lying and suppression of the truth? These are all intriguing questions for viewers to consider.