Taste of Cherry by Abbas Kiarostami (1997, Iran) is one of the minimalist films with little narrative information but one that speaks a thousand words for the fragility and the ‘preciousness of life’ according to Kiarostami. (Wikipedia, Taste of Cherry)
Kiarostami uses themes like morality, the legitimacy of the act of suicide, and the meaning of compassion in Taste of Cherry to explicate Human Condition, specifically the meaning of life. The film possesses many instances that will make you ponder and mull over the latter and ultimately, your own fate. (Wikipedia, Human Condition)
It sparked out a minor controversy amongst the critics as Roger Ebert passed the film off in his critic as ‘excruciatingly boring’ rating it a mere 1 out of 4 stars, deeming the filmmaker’s style in Taste of Cherry ‘an affectation’. (Roger Ebert, Review) Despite Ebert’s scathing review, there was critic Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader who awarded the film a total of 4 out of 4 stars in his critic, and hailed it as a masterpiece in his critic. And I agree with his claim. (Wikipedia, Taste of Cherry)
Kiarostami’s trademark styles that was evident in this film – the use of his long shots throughout the film in Taste of Cherry instead of just closing sequences and conversations that unfold inside cars with Kiarostami sitting in the car’s passenger seat instead of the utilizing of stationary mounted cameras. ( Wikipedia, Cinematic style of Abbas Kiarostami)
In Ebert’s critic, he claimed Kiarostami’s style ‘an affectation’ because we didn’t know anything about Badhi at all; not even his reason for wanting to commit suicide. But I don’t feel the same about the statement at all.
“An artist designs and creates a piece hoping to materialize some thoughts, concepts or feelings through his or her medium.” – Kiarostami
Kiarostami didn’t want us to think too much and too far. He simply wanted us to watch and hear what was going on in the screen and bring the problems and troubles Badhi has upon ourselves to reflect and wonder if throwing away life for a reason even we are not sure of worthwhile. Kiarostami portrayed how one’s actions, usually immoral (suicide), would be pitted against humanity and others’ unconscious need to help others in the face of death through the entire film’s happenings, the conversations that breathe life back into Badhi.
The leisurely pace and the long periods of silence in Taste of Cherry as Badhi chooses his passengers carefully, invites them into his car for a ride and a chat about the help he requires in taking his own life, the long shots and distant overhead shots of the Land Rover moving on the gritty hills meant to create a distance to allow the audience to take a break from Badhi and to ‘stimulate reflection on their fate’.
The high angle shots are juxtaposed to the dialogue that still goes on in the car and the ambient sounds – the construction and the car tires against the grit in the foreground as viewers are given the time and a very lifelike situation to reflect on the meaning of life as Badhi is being slowly convinced by the different passengers he picks up over time.
It is through dialogue that Badhi sees a sliver of hope in living and the trees in full bloom depict the Turkish taxidermist’s epiphany with Mulberries during the distancing shots, the brightness and colour of the film start to appear signifying grey shades instead of the black and white in Badhi’s life before, hope in the colorful establishments and fully bloomed trees instead of the dull monotonous shade of yellow and dirt.
The close shots of the shy Kurdish soldier in uniform in the Rover who reminisces with Badhi the happiest moments in life when Badhi was in camp, a scene that reminds us of the little joys in life worth living for.
The only music that plays in the film after the deafening silence over humanity’s persuasion was at the ending after cutting a black screen symbolizing Badhi’s death — a trumpet piece, Louis Armstrong’s adaptation of “St. James Infirmary”, showing the behind the scenes cuts of the crew resting and actor Ershadi (Bahdi) smoking a cig. This revealed how life goes on and never stops its jollity for the ones who live to ‘tell the story’ of others but death is ultimately eminent for everyone, as Rosenbaum mentioned ‘we don’t have to remember all of the lyrics of “St. James Infirmary” to know that death is waiting for us around the corner.’
Despite the fact that Kiarostami’s style isn’t conventional in Hollywood (camera placement, lack of narrative information), Kiarostami has received worldwide acclaim for his work from both audiences and critics, and, in 1999, he was voted the most important film director of the 1990s by two international critics’ polls. (Wikikepia, Abbas Kiarostami) Kiarostami’s films are ones of humanism and a source of enlightenment and comfort for people in times of need.
“Words cannot describe my feelings about them …When Satyajit Ray passed on, I was very depressed. But after seeing Kiarostami’s films, I thanked God for giving us just the right person to take his place.” – Akira Kurosawa.
Appreciate or disparage Kiarostami’s film style and techniques, it has influenced his peers Jean-Luc Godard and Nanni Moretti to make a short film about one of his films in his theater in Rome, Il Giorno della prima di Close Up (1996) and The Art of Living (2003), directed by Fergus Daly.(Wikipedia, Taste of Cherry)
Kiarostami has brought filmmaking to a whole new level as he immerses in the power to changes lives and educates people with humanistic films – magnifying the purpose of life one film after another.
About the author: Germaine Lim is a fervent writer, hairstylist and someone who needs to learn to stop crying over fictional characters.
En.wikipedia.org.Taste of Cherry – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In-text: (En.wikipedia.org 1997) Bibliography: En.wikipedia.org. 1997. Taste of Cherry – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taste_of_Cherry [Accessed: 16 Jun 2013].
En.wikipedia.org. Cinematic style of Abbas Kiarostami – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In-text: (En.wikipedia.org 1990) Bibliography: En.wikipedia.org. 1990. Cinematic style of Abbas Kiarostami – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinematic_style_of_Abbas_Kiarostami [Accessed: 16 Jun 2013].
En.wikipedia.org. Abbas Kiarostami – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In-text: (En.wikipedia.org 2008) Bibliography: En.wikipedia.org. 2008. Abbas Kiarostami – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbas_Kiarostami#Film_career [Accessed: 16 Jun 2013].
Taste of Cherry Movie Review & Film Summary (1998) | Roger Ebert
In-text: (http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/?p=12372 1998) Bibliography: http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/?p=12372. 1998. Taste of Cherry Movie Review & Film Summary (1998) | Roger Ebert. [online] Available at: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/taste-of-cherry-1998 [Accessed: 16 Jun 2013].
En.wikipedia.org. Human condition – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In-text: (En.wikipedia.org 1933) Bibliography: En.wikipedia.org. 1933. Human condition – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_condition [Accessed: 16 Jun 2013].