Monday, 30 August 2010

The Wind Will Carry Us

This is my first encounter with Iranian Director Kiarostami. This is not a movie in any conventional understanding of the term. There is no plot or story as such. It's more reality TV than Hollywood blockbuster, it has no international stars and no identifiable outcome - and that is the master-stroke. Rather than presenting a narrative, this film presents life and invites you to develop your own story.

Set in a remote Kurdish village in Western Iran, this film is a mystery. Those within it are a mystery. The motive of the visitors from Tehran is a mystery. What happens to them while they are in the village is a mystery. The outcome is a mystery. What each viewer takes from this film is a mystery that needs to undergo gestation in the privacy of individual reflection. The film is an invitation to examine matters of life and death, the rhythm of life, what is important and who is important. It also invites you to slow down and readjust your perspective. The film offers a gift - an opportunity for healing, celebration and a re-evaluation of priorities.

Descending on this remote settlement the visitors are received with customary hospitality. Their mission being to film the ancient and obscure mourning ritual of this people. Connected to the wider world by only a mobile phone through which daily requests for progress reports come, 'The Engineer' and his colleagues (who we never see) wait and wait - interested only in the health of the village Matriarch who is thought to be close to death - but she is only ill. The irony is that to receive a signal for the phone, 'The Engineer' has to drive out of the village to the hill-top cemetery where a local is digging a grave - possibly for the old lady.

As the waiting goes on, so the rhythm of village life proceeds unabated. The visitors never really integrating, the hospitality of the villagers able to be welcoming whilst maintaining a distance. Gradually it dawns on 'The Engineer' that there of things of greater value here than the assignment that brought them to this village. He recites poems - one to a suggestively beautiful girl who refuses to show her face as she milks the cow for him. Iranian culture has a proud and lively heritage of poetry that remains current, drawing on work from Omar Khayyám and Forough Farrokhzad to name but two. 'The Engineer' experiences moments of enlightenment through encounters with a Tortoise, a Dung Beetle and the local Doctor!

At the end of watching this film I was left asking 'what was all that about?'. The more I have reflected on it and discussed it with my ever-insightful significant other, the more I am beginning to see this as a film about what it is to be human and connected to the environment lived in. It is a film about life, about what matters and ultimately about death. As the words of the poets reach out to us down through the centuries, we are reminded that our existence can transcend our three score years and ten.

It is interesting to note that it falls within the Arts & Faith top 100 spiritual films - at number 57.

When you want to be challengingly engaged - watch this film. I'll give it 7.5/10

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