May 26, 2011 / Filmwell
Kenji Koiso has his summer vacation all planned out: he and his friend Sakuma have …
July 13, 2009
Before, praying seemed ridiculous. I used to say, “You pray to force God to give you things.”
A modern Iranian woman drives a series of friends, relations and strangers through the streets of Tehran. Ten front-seat conversations trace only the outlines of her story: the filmmaker is content instead simply to observe the details of interactions between the woman and her passengers. Kiarostami: “It’s from this point that the viewer’s duty to complete a work or a film begins. The viewer must be enticed into reflection on himself and the surrounding world. By simply showing the reality, one can make people think about their own and other people’s acts or behaviour. In this kind of cinema, the most important subject matter is human beings and their souls.”
The hectoring of her not-quite-adolescent son hints at the reasons behind her divorce. She celebrates her freedom while a friend prays for a husband. She is challenged not only by her sister’s conservatism but by a streetwalker who turns her words back on her: “Don’t you ever think about sin or guilt?” / “Why don’t you ask yourself the same question?” An elderly religious pilgrim makes an unexpected offer: “I’ll watch the car while you go pray.” She smiles and declines. Lacking the usual narrative cues, we must scrutinize the characters’ words and faces for hints of their souls’ journeys. The smallest alterations in the pattern of conversation come to signify a great deal.
I thought of Jack’s comment about prayer in SHADOWLANDS: “It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” What it is that effects change in this woman – or, indeed, whether she changes at all – is left to each viewer to decide. From my perspective though, few films record the subtle transitions of the human soul with such reality and mystery, and with an artistry that seems so refreshingly artless.
See also Kiarostami’s reflections on film-making from “10 On Ten”