Zire darakhatan zeyton, 1994
[Through the Olive Trees]
director, played by an actor (Mohamad Ali Keshavarz), speaks in
aside about a real-life devastating earthquake in rural Iran. The
director has returned to the village of Koker to work on a new film
(an actual Kiarostami film) entitled Life
and Nothing More... (And Life Goes On...).
The young women have been assembled for an open field casting call.
A young woman named Tahereh Ladanian is the first person to catch
the director's eye. The director instructs his assistant, Mrs. Shiva
(Zarifeh Shiva), to take down her name. Later, we see that the young
woman has been cast for the role of a new bride named Tahereh.
Mrs. Shiva drives around the village on the following morning in preparation
for the day's shoot. She goes to Tahereh's house, where the stubborn
young woman insists on wearing an inappropriate party dress for the
shoot. Another stop near the makeshift tent school, and two boys provide
houseplants for the exterior shots of the house. The initial film
takes prove to be a disaster. The leading man, who stutters in the
presence of women, is unable to deliver his lines. Mrs. Shiva is asked
to bring his replacement, an unemployed mason named Hossein (Hossein
Rezai), to the set. But Hossein's arrival proves to be an equally
frustrating challenge for the crew. Tahereh refuses to speak to Hossein,
and the director sends the actors home in order to assess the situation.
Hossein reveals to the director that he has repeatedly proposed to
Tahereh, but her family refuses to give their consent. If she would
only provide a sign to show how she truly felt about him.
By defining the role of cinema as a chronicle of real life, Kiarostami
takes on the role of documenter rather than director. In
Through the Olive Trees, it is the director
(albeit played by an actor) who serves as the interviewer, from the
school children watching behind the barricades, to the dialogue with
Hossein attempting to understand Tahereh's silence, to the encounter
with three generations of provincial women returning from their bath.
In depicting the everyday lives of ordinary people through mundane
conversations and unremarkable actions, he attempts to capture the
essence of the human soul in a way that is honest and contemplative.
But in the process of conveying life in real-time, his films can also
test one's patience. In Through the Olive Trees,
the director shuts off the camera, only to find that the lives of
his actors are far more fascinating off-camera than the characters
that they portray on camera. In the remarkable, long, static shot
that has come to define Abbas Kiarostami's signature ending, Hossein,
unwilling to accept Tahereh's continued silence, follows her down
the hill, through the olive trees, and into the open field, pleading
his case for marriage. The camera lingers as the "couple" are reduced
to floating white dots that seem to focus and disperse into the
beautiful, earthy landscape. It is a hypnotic reflection of the
passage of real-time, and we are reminded that we have witnessed
one mere episode, one fleeting glimpse, of a wondrous phenomenon
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