May 26, 2011 / Filmwell
Kenji Koiso has his summer vacation all planned out: he and his friend Sakuma have …
April 2, 2009
David Bordwell has seen Abbas Kiarostami’s Shirin at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, and reports that it’s unlike anything he’s seen before.
And if it’s an April Fool’s joke, it’s elaborate, subtle, and well worth falling for.
I’m falling for it, anyway…
After a credit sequence presenting the classic tale Khosrow and Shirin in a swift series of drawings, the film severs sound from image. What we hear over the next 85 minutes is an enactment of the tale, with actors, music, and effects. But we don’t see it at all. What we see are about 200 shots of female viewers, usually in single close-ups, with occasionally some men visible behind or on the screen edge. The women are looking more or less straight at the camera, and we infer that they’re reacting to the drama as we hear it.
… he has given us the first fiction film I know about the reception of a movie, or at least a heightened idea of a movie. What we see, in all these concerned, fascinated faces and hands that flutter to the face, is what we spectators look like—from the point of view of a film.
Looking for some point of comparison, Bordwell concludes,
The closest analogy is probably to the celebrated sequence in Vivre sa vie, in which the prostitute played by Anna Karina weeps while watching La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc. Come to think of it, the really close analogy is Dreyer’s film itself, which almost never presents Jeanne and her judges in the same shot, locking her into a suffocating zone of her own.
For some reason, I’m reminded of one of the most haunting, affecting shots I’ve ever seen in a film. This one (starting at the 1:18 mark).
Further, I’m reminded of what may be my favorite moment in all of Shakespeare: Seeing the king’s reaction to Hamlet’s play.
Someone should compile a list of the great audience moments onscreen. Royal Tenenbaum at the theater. Wide-eyed children at the circus in Wings of Desire. Perhaps someone who has spare time can put together a video mash-up while we all endure what may be a long, long wait for Shirin to reach U.S. screens.
Any other scenes spring to mind?
(P.S. Bordwell also points to this interview with Kiarostami on the making of Shirin.)
Jeffrey Overstreet watches far too many movies, writes film reviews and two weekly columns for ChristianityTodayMovies.com, maintains the Web site LookingCloser.org, contributes to Paste Magazine, and is at work on a series of novels. He works at Seattle Pacific University.