Taste of Cherry (1997)

Directed by Abbas Kiarostami

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A man drives around Tehran looking for someone, not just anyone but still no single person in particular.  The camera remains static inside the car as people pass by outside, occasionally poking their head in to see if he’s looking for day labor.  He’s not.

The man, Mr. Badii (Homayoun Ershadi), doesn’t tell us what he’s after.  Soon he picks up a young man serving in the military and offers him a ride.  After beating around the bush, the young man asks what it is that Badii wants.  He won’t say other than to insist it’s worth his time because he’ll pay the man in one night what it would otherwise take him six months to make.

The young man remains unsure, and finally, at the top of the hill, Badii gets out of the car and tells the soldier that he is going to lie down in a dug grave that night.  If he’s awake at dawn, he wants the young man to help him out of the grave.  If he’s not, then he wants the man to bury him.

Badii explains this in a long monologue while the young man remains silent.  When Badii gets back in the car, the young man bolts, sprinting away for his life, down the steep mountainside.

Badii then moves on to find another person, this time a security guard.  He doesn’t get far with the man but does pick up the man’s friend, a seminarist.  A conversation like the first follows, again inside the car as if inside a confessional.  They talk more openly about Badii’s planned suicide attempt.  We don’t know why he wants to do it, but we get the idea he can’t be convinced to change his mind.

The seminarist tries, calling attention to the immorality of suicide, but it’s the seminarist who seems to change his mind a little as Badii asks if it’s not just as immoral to be so unhappy and thus drawn to ruin his own personal relationships.

Then he’s onto a third person, a professor who similarly tries to talk him out of it.  It’s the fourth long conversation of the movie, and it ends with no clear resolution.  Badii thinks he’s convinced him to do it.

That night he lies down in the grave while a storm brew overhead.  He waits and so do we.  Lightning claps, and soon we fade to black, long enough for us to feel convinced that some kind of meaningful transition has occurred.  Whether or not he died, that’s anyone’s guess, but it seems safe to say he comes out a new person.

The film never shows us what happens and instead ends on behind the scenes footage of the production.  Kiarostami and his team set up a shot on the hillside we’ve grown used to throughout the film.  The footage is grainy, overexposed and tinted turquoise.  To me, the effect resembled what the world looks like in the middle of the day when you come out of a dark theater or, in this case, a dark grave.  

It’s as though we’re opening our eyes for the first time and reacquainting ourselves with the world.  If that’s what happens to the main character, who the hell knows.  This is a purposefully opaque film that doesn’t offer easy answers.  From what I’ve read, it was heavily, even mostly improvised with several non actors.  

They talk about death and about the ends of things.  In the end, because of the suddenly new way of seeing what’s onscreen, it feels like the start of something.

So Taste of Cherry has us consider the end, what’s coming for us all, and then it ends on a big breath of fresh air, perhaps reminding us that the end is far away, or that it doesn’t matter because we’re here now.  

Up Next: Footloose (1984), Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), The Ladykillers (1955)

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