Taste of Cherry
Akash Kumar Saha
Recently I got engrossed in the rich cinematic culture of Iran. Hollywood flicks tend to portray this part of the world as a war-ravaged ruin. In many ways this adds to the shock value whenever one gets in touch with it’s Cinema. Abbas Kiarostami is an essential Iranian director whose works got recognition from the west. In his versatile filmography, Taste of Cherry is one of the movies that stand out.
Our protagonist is Mr. Badii (played by Homayoun Ershadi). He is a middle-aged man who once served in the army. He also made some really close friends there (some of whom he lost, it seems). From the very beginning we see him going around Tehran, looking for a guy who is willing to do his ‘job’ that comes with a handsome reward in return. Yet the job is one of a kind. Everyone he sees around is either working in groups (which may be dangerous for such a subtle job!), or refusing to sit down with him for a ride, which by the way is necessary to know about their misery and misfortune. For a person going through immense financial trouble, this job is a lucrative offer, he feels. Along the way he comes across characters from wide spectrum of the society. But Badii is running out of time. Will he be able to find a person willing to take the offer?
Performances and direction
The weight of the entire movie relies on the performance from Homayoun Ershadi. His subtle expressions beautifully capture the sense of despair the character is going through. There are scenes where Ershadi’s character would just sit in silence and yet the audience can feel him struggling to cope with the storm within. There are few characters and all of them are realistically portrayed by the respective actors.
Kiarostami’s work blooms in simplicity. There is hardly any background music- at times the silence feels deafening. The dialogues are simple yet impactful. Camerawork is not pretentious- we see what Badii sees- the dusty, rocky roads with a rare glimpse of green. Perhaps the protagonist himself has arrived at the the rocky truth of his life, without a shade of hope. Interestingly enough, Kiarostami never reveals much about Badii. In a way this challenges the common belief that any sympathy towards a character comes only after a detailed character backstory. With a simple backdrop, the movie tackles themes like mortality, human conscience, meaning of life. In spite of the heavy philosophy, the film feels light. Kiarostami doesn’t focus on the right or wrong – everyone has their own perception. Even at the end, we do not get to know about the sorrow and pain, the protagonist is going through. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. With Badii, we go along the same rocky roads, over and over again- not knowing what will happen tomorrow.
Taste of Cherry is a prime example of how creativity can contain complex ideas in a simple way. In a time when we are heading towards Cinema that is getting unnecessarily crowded by visual effects, this movie acts as a reminder of the essence of this art form.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.