Friday, November 19, 2010

The wind will carry us

Abbas Kiarostami 1999

After seeing an excellent film, it is perhaps natural to feel, at least for a while that this was the director's best. None of Kiarostami's were disappointing. But since there are many who find his films to be monotonous and empty, I may have at times had second thoughts about my own evaluation. This film reconfirms my immense liking for his movies.

He has been called painfully slow, repetetive, and plain boring. I find his description of everyday events set in a mountain village to be hypnotic, a leisured meditation on the wonder of  event-less daily existence. It is no more repetitive than a refrain that re-occurs in a song. I found this movie, in it's series of cameos of details of the ordinary--a tortoise succeeds in uprighting itself after being upturned by the sullen protagonist, a robust mother of ten shyly withdraws behind a curtain on being asked how many more the factory could produce, village folk refuse to accept payment for a jar of milk, an insect dragging it's loot--no less absorbing than a courtroom drama, or a horror film, with the difference that it gently draws you in, rather than assaulting your senses.

The present film is a sketch of life in a remote Iranian village. The camera surveys the fascinating structure of mud dwellings placed against a hillock one atop the other like a house of cards. The corn fields stretch out between the bald mountains like the Van Gogh painting. Kiarostami vision is reverential, and whether he is looking at objects or people, seeing his films is like a voyage of discovery in a territory familiar in it's humanity. His camera is as though intoxicated by the things of this world and there is an almost biblical simplicity about his observation of people. Others say his characters lack psychological depth. They certainly are not obsessed with individualism.

Kiarostami more than individuals is portraying society. The community portrayed in this film might seem idyllic, specially if one has become used to the gangster movies as a norm of human behaviour. The villagers, perhaps due to their interdependance, cherish the virtues of neighbourliness and brotherhood. Kiarostami, often criticised and banned in his own country, is hardly one to glorify religion, but the simplicity of these pastoral and agricultural hill-folk, brings out the essence of the Islamic ethos, and indeed, of any religion worth the name.

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