Tuesday, October 22, 2013

881. Zire darakhatan zeyton/Through the Olive Trees (1994)

Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed By: Abbas Kiarostami
Written By: Abbas Kiarostami
Main Cast: Mohamad Ali Keshavarz, Farhad Kheradmand, Zarifeh Shiva, Hossein Rezai, Tahereh Ladanian
Click here to view the trailer


So it's been more than a few days since I've been around. Let's just say it's been a rough few days at the workplace and when I got home at night, I just didn't have the gusto to give any energy to watching a movie. However, I have officially begun my fall vacation and I fully expect to bombard you with movie reviews or at least try to. Don't forget I'm also a married man and my wife deserves some quality time as well - but we'll see what we can do.

The two main characters are in there somewhere...
Abbas Kiarostami pops up again on the list, moving in reverse chronological order, with "Through the Olive Trees" - his 1994 feature and the conclusion to his unofficial "Koker Trilogy". Koker refers to Koker, Iran, a small village which was rocked by an earthquake in the year 1990, killing many. The film starts with a movie director visiting an all female school, for the purpose of casting for a movie, which will use the Koker earthquake as a backdrop. At first, we merely meet the characters: follow a onset aide as she runs many errands; picking up props, giving other cast members lifts in her truck, etc. Later, the meat & potatoes of the film's plot is revealed as we meet Hossein (Rezai), one of the main characters in the fictional film (and the real one) who has recently proposed to a girl - a girl who happens to be his leading lady in the film. During shooting, tensions arise and it gets to the point where the girl won't even acknowledge her leading man, ignoring his dialogue cues and upsetting the director (Keshavarz). After a discussion between Hossein and the director, we learn that following the boy's proposal to the girl, he was shot down; not necessarily because of her own decision, but because her family forbade her to marry an illiterate, poor man. Since the failed proposal, the girl's family perished in the earthquake, however, she still won't give the poor guy the time of day. Tensions arise on set...


Bear with me folks. As I said, I just got through some pretty grueling work days and there may be a dusting of blog rust on my brain.

I want to hit on a few non-opinionated things, but first let's get this out of the way - I didn't mind the movie that much, but would be hard pressed to propel it into "must see" territory, at least after one viewing anyway. It was neither boring, nor bad, maintained it's running time nicely and accentuated the outdoor beauty that is Iran. Look, I'm just an ignorant "westerner" whose only association of Iran came from watching The Iron Shiek on television, as a child. I hate to highlight my ignorance, but before Abbas Kiarostami, when I thought of Iran, I thought of desert area. Don't ask me why, because I don't know. Maybe it came from a picture in a text book, maybe an image on television, but it's what I always thought of. However, thankfully Kiarostami DID come along and made me realize that the landscapes of Iran are gorgeous, making me realize what a peaceful feeling it might be to stand amongst the olive trees of the title. Just to be clear, the entire film is nothing but outdoor shots, with not one interior location. I could be wrong, but I believe "Taste of Cherry" was also shot entirely outdoors.

One thing I wanted to touch upon was the relationship between the boy and girl (not surprising, considering it's what the plot revolves around). First off, Wikipedia notes that due to the culture clash, westerners usually take the girl as being 100% cold to the boy, while apparently she's actually also interested in him. I realize that some things that appear on Wiki can be taken with a grain of salt, but I found this interesting and it would actually make a little sense. If she has somehow shown some sort of interest in Hossein, then his constant nagging wouldn't be as annoying as it comes off. At least he'd have reason to nag, because she's shown interest in him and now he wants answers. Of course, there's also the ending, which again Kiarostami leaves open ended, allowing us to decide for ourselves. I guess I can play along here: The music suggests that she finally turned around and said "yes", but I'm more of a pessimist and I'd like to think she said "no". Why a "no" answer would send him running away, I haven't the slightest idea (unless she really ripped into him, sending him running away in tears), but that's what I think. Of course, this guessing game COULD HAVE been avoided if we'd just been given the proper 360 degree angle to this story...I'm really beginning to hate open endedness in pictures. Just tell me what you want to tell me and finish your story. Sometimes it works and when it does, I'll praise it. Honestly, it actually worked here, as the ending sort of needed some sort of "oomph" to kick this picture in the butt and make it a little more memorable. Otherwise, it's quite the subtle time at the movies. Good, not great is the verdict of the day.

RATING: 6.5/10  I could see this one growing on me honestly, so we'll see what happens in due time. Just a reminder, FRIGHTFEST kicks off THIS FRIDAY night with my review of "The Omen". Be there!


October 22, 2013  10:33pm

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