Taste of Cherry

A part of this view­ing listCriterion Collection Spine #45: Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry.

Apparently, the en­tirety of Iran is a gi­ant gravel-pile con­struc­tion site. That’s the im­pres­sion given in this film, and con­sid­er­ing how lit­tle I know of the coun­try due to my own nation’s sanc­tions against it, I’m go­ing to choose to as­sume that Iran is a beau­ti­ful coun­try and Kiarostami made a styl­is­tic and the­matic choice to film most of this in lo­ca­tions where just about every­thing is dead and dy­ing, and dry earth cas­cades on all sides in crum­bling ruin.

Few the­matic choices could fit bet­ter for a plot re­volv­ing around a man who wants to com­mit sui­cide and have some­one bury him, or haul him out of his own grave if he fails to do a proper job of it. Godfrey Cheshire’s Criterion es­say ac­com­pa­ny­ing this film makes a point to dis­cuss this film in terms of life and death, but I in­ter­pret it in slightly more gen­eral terms. I don’t think this is a story about man ver­sus him­self; I think it’s a film about man ver­sus na­ture. Mr. Badii, for some un­stated rea­son, feels dis­con­nected with life. He tries, time and again, to get some­one to show him some mod­icum of at­ten­tion. Everyone he talks to is so busy liv­ing their lives, in­no­cently in the case of the young sol­dier; stu­diously, in the case of the sem­i­nar­ist; and fully, in the case of the old man, that none of them can be both­ered with Badii’s ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis.

A man do­ing what­ever he can to get even the small­est part of the world to no­tice him, even through sui­cide, is a man full of pride and mis­guided. His cri­sis would not oc­cur to some­one fully en­gaged in liv­ing life, or to some­one who knows their in­signif­i­cance in the grand scheme of things. I’d ar­gue that Kiarostami is mak­ing a dis­tinc­tion be­tween liv­ing life with in­dif­fer­ence to your in­signif­i­cance and be­ing un­able to ac­cept that fact and be­ing filled with de­spair in­stead. This doesn’t sound par­tic­u­larly pos­i­tive, but it is. At least as far as I’m con­cerned, en­gage­ment with life is much more pos­i­tive than de­spair at liv­ing in the first place.

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