Irreverent city engineer Behzad comes to a rural village in Iran to keep vigil for a dying relative. In the meanwhile the film follows his efforts to fit in with the local community and how he changes his own attitudes as a result.
Roushan Karam Elmi
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Mohamad Ali Keshavarz,
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James Miller has just written a book on the value of a copy versus the original work of art. At a book reading, a woman gives him her address, and the next day they meet and take a country-side drive to a local Italian village. Here, they discuss various works of art found in the town, and also the nature of their relationship - which gets both more revealed and concealed as the day progresses. Written by
The mystery of this relationship will likely resonate the most with people. How do these two people know each other, is she the mistress, wife? I think it counts that Kiarostami has designed it to be impenetrable by logic, blurred the cause and effect, which is a way of dispelling the notion that we can know the world by it. Is he going to put his hand on her shoulder, will he take the 9 o'clock train out of there, I'd rather ask these questions myself. Both pertain here eventually, as abstractions of life. A man and a woman, whose relationship real or imaginary we might know from our own efforts.
They stop in a museum before the picture of a portrait, thought for centuries to be the original, though lately discovered to have been only a perfect copy. What value has changed in this object, what new perception now regards it, this is where I believe this is best unraveled.
Things change the man quips philosophically, an intellectual much like Kiarostami perhaps. Yet we see the same cypresses standing by the same old road, the same plazas and hotels they once visited, then young and booming with love. Having spoken so well, we see however that the man understands little of that. He can't even enjoy a simple glass of wine without complaining that it is corked, what should be a simple pleasure is tainted by the gross irritation that comes from too much satisfaction. Having satisfied our desires so many times, in so many different ways, we can see that we are no closer to happiness.
Where does this weariness then, born from too much familiarity, from having seen or tasted too much, come from and why does it invest our gaze with this constant dissatisfaction? Another line of thought to connect the web of allusions. The woman, who has made herself beautiful for him in the day of their anniversary, says he doesn't see her anymore. He looks at her but doesn't see, meaning something has dissipated with time, grown withered in his eyes, though she is still the same, except a little older.
Kiarostami perfectly visualizes the burden that saddles these people in the scene where they are driving around town in the car. On the windshield we see cast over their faces the reflections of buildings gliding by, not simply the gap that exists between them, indeed between any two human beings, but the burden of time, life passing them over. In a poignant metaphor, we see them move through existence.
A perfect copy, the original, two identical objects which we are taught to perceive differently. The lines being the same in the same places, the hues of color painted exactly the same, the one intrinsic value that separates the two is merely time. Which is to say that as humans, who wither away with time, we allow ourselves to regard it as the most precious good, the one we cannot buy or sell. The movie shows us how, although we may understand our transience as an idea, we live as though we will always be here, as though we have time enough to postpone a small gesture of affection.
But if we simply perceive the world around us, this present moment? This draught of air now coming from an open window or this glass of wine? Or indeed this woman who has made herself beautiful for us?
This is a great film by one of the few gifted filmmakers of our times, perhaps his first truly great one. In the right ears, this will be a sutra that will permit us to meditate on fundamental precepts of existence, how time thought to matter matters little, how craving and ego blind us. How ultimately, like a mandala upon which Tibetan monks work tirelessly day and night only to destroy it upon completion, life is to be lived in full, with knowledge that it will come to pass.
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