Friday, October 7, 2011

Taste of Cherry - Irani Movie

Abbas Kiarostami's 'Taste of Cherry' is a story of a man who wants to die. He wants to commit suicide - but he wants someone to bury him after his death. The movie starts with him driving around his a big car, roving the streets of a town where there is much industrial activity, perhaps Teheran, looking for the ideal candidate to do this job. He drives round and round and drives us mad as he searches for his ideal candidate, stopping, and moving on. His offers to give good money for a ten minute job sound suspiciously like pick up lines and a couple of his candidates threaten to bash his face in. He changes tactics and takes a young soldier for a drive and shows him the spot where he has dug the grave for himself. His plan - he will consume sleeping pills and lie down in the grave. The chosen one has to come next day and bury him - after verifying that he is dead of course. The young soldier bolts like a startled deer!

An Afghan security guard and then a young seminarist studying religion are approached. The seminarist tells him that the Koran forbids taking one's own life. The man finally finds one old man, a taxidermist who agrees to his plan. The man says he will do it come what may, he will be there next morning to bury him. But as they drive in the car the old man talks of how he was once driven to suicide himself and just as he was about to hang himself by a mulberry tree, he was amazed at god's creation and stopped himself to eat a mulberry. The sweet taste of the mulberry, the beautiful blue sky, the sound of happy children, the dream of a taste of cherry all fill him with immense joy and he give sup the idea of suicide and goes back home. He says he was saved by a mulberry and that this life is too beautiful to kill oneself. But if the suicidal man still wants to die that is his problem - he will come and bury him.

After he leaves the man on the suicide mission searches for him again and tells him to bury him only after checking if he was dead - he might have changed his mind at night and might just be asleep! The man says he will triple check before burying him.

The man on the suicide mission goes back home - he is apparently well off, plans his exit very carefully, warm clothes and all and heads to the spot in a taxi. He lays himself down in his grave and awaits as the rains come down. The screen goes black for a long while except for flashed of lightning which show his face in his grave.

The next shot we see the man walking about and Abbas Kiarostami and his crew shooting his film and winding up the shoot. End of movie! Figure that out.

I surmised that the man gave up on his suicide inspired by the old man's sharing of the taste of the cherry. And he probably also made this film based on his experience. Just like all Iranian movies it leaves you to figure it out for yourself - at just the point when you want the movie to tell you what it was about the credits roll and you are left to think. Engaging, intelligent, existential and certainly an interesting concept. I can see no one else making a movie like this but the Iranians.

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