Kiarostami: The man who made me believe in ideas
It struck me – the same feeling you get when a small piece of glass is pulled out from your toe – a realisation.
A few years ago, during my screenwriting course, I was asked to watch Abbas Kiarostami’s ‘Taste of Cherry’. Never having seen an Iranian film before, I went in with no expectations. It was only when it ended that it happened. It struck me – the same feeling you get when a small piece of glass is pulled out from your toe – a realisation.
I wondered, isn’t that what a film or any work of art should do?
Most filmmakers can’t achieve with a billion dollars what Kiarostami achieved with a few actors, a vehicle and a vast open Iranian landscape. It proved to me, a film student back then, what one could achieve with a strong idea. All you need is a camera and an idea that could hold your narrative together.
The film proved to be a fusion of awkward silences and uncomfortable conversations – with me left to decide which were more uneasy as a viewer. It is a neorealist depiction of a man’s journey around an Iranian suburb as he attempts to convince someone to bury him. The character lies in his grave, waiting to be buried, as the screen fades to black and we hear the storm coming. Not much is revealed about him after as when the visuals return, we see Kiarostami and his crew smoking and laughing in the sunlight. As Kiarostami lit a cigarette, I could feel the smoke on my face, as if he were saying,
“Wake up, this is just a film!”
Taste of Cherry is perhaps the truest manifestation of the idea of existentialism on screen. And while it gave me an existential crisis for some time to come, when I rose above it, I was a man who believed in ideas – one that can pierce like broken glass and unearth your creative potential. So today, a day after his death, all I wish was for one chance to say, “Thank you, Abbas Kiarostami,” for helping me become the man I am today. While there are many reasons you have left behind, in the form of your films, for us to remember you by, I will remember you most for the unwavering determination you had, despite all the odds stacked against you, and for the expert skill with which you surreptitiously crept into the deepest conscience of everyone curious enough to learn about you.
Rest in peace, Sir.