18 May 2012

Abbas Kiarostami's The Wind Will Carry Us (1999)

Abbas Kiarostami's The Wind Will Carry Us is minimalist, and has been compared by some critics with Beckett or Pinter. It's probably easy to understand why: the setting (in and around a poor Iranian Kurdistan village) is bleak; the characters are few; the action (such as it is) is very repetitious, enigmatic or inexplicable; and the speech is kept to a minimum.

A small group of people from Tehran (of whom we only see one, who becomes known as 'The Engineer ' and is played by Behzad Dourani) drive to a village, telling a young boy there that they are looking for treasure, although this is an evident mistruth. Several times, the leader of the group has a cell phone call and has to drive out to higher land to talk to a mysterious woman (Mrs Godzani) in Tehran from whom he appears to be receiving instructions, and who is obviously imminently hoping for the death of a woman in the village (whom we never see, and whose health we only learn about through the boy). Each time (apart from the last) that the man drives to higher ground (and the ritual is certainly humorous as well as tedious, much like something from Waiting for Godot) 'The Engineer' talks to an unseen man digging a hole.

It would be facile to say (with a nudge to one dismissive critical comment about Godot) that The Wind Will Carry Us is a movie in which nothing happens several (as opposed to two) times, but (again like Godot) it is much more than that: Kiarostami, unlike so many Hollywood or Hollywood-inspired directors, doesn't simplify things for the viewer by making the meaning clear, and it is open to plural interpretation. This is arthouse cinema par excellence: take it or leave it, but it would be a mistake to knock it.

The Wind Will Carry Us takes its name from a poem by the prominent female poet Forough Farrokhzad (1935–67). Kiarostami is part of the Iranian New Wave cinema, widely believed to have been spearheaded  by Farrokhzad's only film, the 22-minute Khaneh siah ast (The House is Black). It was made in 1962 and is set in a leper colony.

Forough Farrokhzad's Khaneh siah ast (The House is Black)

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