Taste Of Cherry (1997) d. Abbas Kiarostami

Taste Of Cherry (1997) d. Abbas Kiarostami

Mr Badii wants to kill himself. The problem is he doesn’t have anyone
to bury him. After a few unsuccessful encounters with men who
misconstrue his unspoken proposition, he picks up a young Kurdish
soldier in need of a lift. Having offered the young recruit a generous
sum in return for the work, the boy leaps out of the car and flees
across the hillside where Badii has already dug his grave. His second
prospective candidate is an Afghan seminarian, who objects on religious
grounds, quoting from scripture to dissuade him. The third is an Azeri
taxidermist who accepts the offer as he needs the money for his sick
child, but nonetheless tries to deter him from carrying out his plan.
He confesses that he too once planned to hang himself from a mulberry
tree, but upon tasting the mulberries, chose life. As darkness falls
over the city, Badii climbs into his grave and closes his eyes, and
darkness falls upon us as the clouds open up.Abbas Kiarostami’s minimalist meditation on the circle of life is
notable for its use of long shots, such as in the closing sequences.
The film is punctuated throughout by shots of Badii’s car traversing
the winding hilly roads, usually while he is conversing with a
passenger. The visual distancing stands in contrast to the sound of the
dialogue, which always remains in the foreground as though
non-diegetic. This fusion of distance with proximity, like the frequent
framing of landscapes through car windows, generates suspense even in the
most mundane of moments.’Taste of Cherry’ confounded Western audiences accustomed to dramatic
performances and emotional manipulation with its apparent absence of
explanation or conclusion. It is never explained why Badii wants to
commit suicide but he tells the seminarian that Allah wouldn’t want any
of his children to suffer so much. We never see him take his pills but
when the rains fall on his open grave we are encouraged to believe that
he has ‘tasted the cherries’ and re-evaluated life. In his circuitous
search for meaning, it could be said that the soldier represents the
state; the seminarian, religion; and Azeri, what can happen but also
what has gone before. Badii is in turn ignored; told to continue living
but not given any reason to; and finally, told to experience nature and
appreciate the little things. The theocracy has little to offer him.The Iran depicted herein is a melting pot, or cultural mosaic, of other
Muslim world countries. We assume Badii is ethnically Persian, but his
fellow travellers all hail from foreign lands. Perhaps this signifies
the finity of the revolutionary state, in that no one has a vested
stake in it’s perpetuation. All three nations represented were
embroiled in conflict at this time, and maybe it was three foreign
perspectives who had known conflict which Badii needed.Much has been
said of the very final scene which I neglected to mention above as I do
not myself consider it part of the narrative. It consists of camcorder
footage of the director and crew shooting scenes of the Army on patrol
and would seem to me to be a disclaimer for the Iranian censors who I
imagine would be concerned with the film’s themes (it’s only a movie).
And it’s inclusion in the Western release would seem to highlight this
issue for foreign audiences.

Author: Dan George

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