Taste Of Cherry (1997) d. Abbas Kiarostami

, 2013-05-07

Mr Badii wants to kill himself. The problem is he doesn't have anyone to bury him. After a few unsuccessful encounters with men who misconstrue his unspoken proposition, he picks up a young Kurdish soldier in need of a lift. Having offered the young recruit a generous sum in return for the work, the boy leaps out of the car and flees across the hillside where Badii has already dug his grave. His second prospective candidate is an Afghan seminarian, who objects on religious grounds, quoting from scripture to dissuade him. The third is an Azeri taxidermist who accepts the offer as he needs the money for his sick child, but nonetheless tries to deter him from carrying out his plan. He confesses that he too once planned to hang himself from a mulberry tree, but upon tasting the mulberries, chose life. As darkness falls over the city, Badii climbs into his grave and closes his eyes, and darkness falls upon us as the clouds open up.Abbas Kiarostami's minimalist meditation on the circle of life is notable for its use of long shots, such as in the closing sequences. The film is punctuated throughout by shots of Badii's car traversing the winding hilly roads, usually while he is conversing with a passenger. The visual distancing stands in contrast to the sound of the dialogue, which always remains in the foreground as though non-diegetic. This fusion of distance with proximity, like the frequent framing of landscapes through car windows, generates suspense even in the most mundane of moments.'Taste of Cherry' confounded Western audiences accustomed to dramatic performances and emotional manipulation with its apparent absence of explanation or conclusion. It is never explained why Badii wants to commit suicide but he tells the seminarian that Allah wouldn't want any of his children to suffer so much. We never see him take his pills but when the rains fall on his open grave we are encouraged to believe that he has 'tasted the cherries' and re-evaluated life. In his circuitous search for meaning, it could be said that the soldier represents the state; the seminarian, religion; and Azeri, what can happen but also what has gone before. Badii is in turn ignored; told to continue living but not given any reason to; and finally, told to experience nature and appreciate the little things. The theocracy has little to offer him.The Iran depicted herein is a melting pot, or cultural mosaic, of other Muslim world countries. We assume Badii is ethnically Persian, but his fellow travellers all hail from foreign lands. Perhaps this signifies the finity of the revolutionary state, in that no one has a vested stake in it's perpetuation. All three nations represented were embroiled in conflict at this time, and maybe it was three foreign perspectives who had known conflict which Badii needed.Much has been said of the very final scene which I neglected to mention above as I do not myself consider it part of the narrative. It consists of camcorder footage of the director and crew shooting scenes of the Army on patrol and would seem to me to be a disclaimer for the Iranian censors who I imagine would be concerned with the film's themes (it's only a movie). And it's inclusion in the Western release would seem to highlight this issue for foreign audiences.