Monday, June 29, 2009

The Wind May, The Cellular Won't

Bad ma ra khahad bord(Wind Will Carry Us)(1999) Directed By Abbas Kariostami

Directed By Abbas Kiarostami
This is just as much about a man trying to find a cell phone signal as much as Rear Window is about a man staring out of a window. A man called The Engineer, goes to a small Iranian village, with his crew (who is never onscreen) from Tehran.
Their either waiting for an old woman to die, or trying to excavate some mysterious ruins, or both, you never can tell.
Each time he talks to headquarters hes got to go back up a hill, to get a signal, at first this really is monotonous, then it becomes kinda funny. Everyone he meets seems to share a knowledge of poetry, which elevates some moments above average minimalist realism.
At first it seemed like a movie about the ancestral village life being superior to on the go modern world, symbolized by the constant cell phone trips. Then I listened a little closer, and realized its much finer than that.
Some are annoyed by the Engineers presence, others curious, there's a woman who serves tea in the village, something the engineer says "hes never seen a woman do, even in Tehran", which seems completely normal to her.
There is a man who he gives a ride to, who explains his theory behind ritual scaring done to mourn the dead in the village funeral ceremonies. There are only so many jobs, and the wives have to be competitive for the men, the most sorrowful ones have a better chance of landing their husbands a gig.
It seemed a good metaphor for countless self inflated tragedies that pass for good and meaningful films nowadays too, whoever can put on the best show of tragedy and misery, gets the gold for most human.
There are no major plot points, no intimate character studies, what there is, is poetry, light conversation, and symbolic imagery. The scenery looks like "Days of Heaven", and if nothing else is beautiful to look at.
There is a great scene where a turtle gets kicked over by the Engineer in a moment of bitterness, he drives away and the camera lingers as the turtle flips itself over and goes on about its business. That's the most dramatic scene in the movie, and it says the most about the film as a whole.
There is also a doctor who has no patients but lots of patience, patience for appreciating nature, and the life of this world, not the past or the future but the present, as opposed to waiting for the glories of the afterlife. This movie is full of small moments, that seem trivial at first glance, but grow later.
I completely understand how some could find this too slow and too plotless, but after Tarkovsky and Bella Tar, this moves along fine, it's a turtle that can't die, a bone thrown into a river, a ritual scar devoid of ritual.
I watched it twice, and I can see why people hate and love Abass Kiarostami. It's simple and complex, dull and full of elegance, dreary and mesmerizing.

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