Taste of Cherry

Taste of Cherry ★★★★

Palme d’Or Winners Project, 1997

There is more space and time allowed by Kiarostami than some will enjoy in this reflective film about life and death. We are given only three types of shot in the film, one looking at Badii inside his Land Rover driving across the mountainous wasteland on the edge of the city. Another takes in his various passengers side of the conversation, while the third views the car from a wider position.

Badii's depressive state of mind that has taken him to the point of suicide is never explained. Either we agree with his point that we would never understand and take the mercenary position of claiming the large sum of money on offer to assist him, or we too can get out the car and return to our own lives. He is kept as a mystery to us, shielded behind a whirling sheet of dust or seen on the other side of a pane of glass even when in conversation.

In many ways it is a simple but powerful parable about the value we place on life, both spiritually and philosophically. Life will continue without this man, the world will still turn. Does Badii deserve the right to take his own life based entirely on his own terms? By approaching working class men and exploiting their need for money is he selfishly compromising their morals? The final few minutes may be reinforcing an idea that Badii does not even exist at all, he is a work of fiction both in and outside of the film, a metaphor who exists to allow us to contemplate and interpret our own thoughts through its patient rhythm.

Kiarostami's pacing is nearly always pitch perfect so even when we are given nothing but a visual guide he entraps our attention. Initially we see a middle class man driving his car, occasionally starting conversations with working men through his open window. Somehow, despite the inactive view, it is fascinating to imagine where this man is heading, what he is up to exactly. It takes maybe thirty minutes, a third of the films running time, to answer any of the unanswered questions and that time layers the mystery further rather than unravelling it.

No judgement is passed on this mans plight and we are given the power to decide his fate with an open ending to his story. By asking us to fill in the cavernous space around his journey with our own thoughts and emotions, we address what our own mortality means to each of us. That life hangs in the finest of balances, swinging from the branches of a tree, the smallest of offerings providing the greatest hope for meaning in this world.

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