Reviewed by: Mehran Mehrabanpour
Starring: Homayon Ershadi, Abdolrahman Bagheri, Afshin Khorshid Bakhtiari, Safar Ali Moradi, Mir Hossein Noori | Directed, Produced and Written by: Abbas Kiarostami
A middle aged man drives around trying to find an accomplice who will bury him if he succesfuly commits suicide. This is the foundation which Abbas Kiarostami has built this Palm d’Or winning film. Brave in its subject matter and almost agonisingly slow pace. Intrepid in its discerning imagery and original ending.
The protagonist, Mr. Badii (Homayoun Ershadi), drives around Tehran (Iran) looking for suitable candidates to assist him in his mission, promising a very generous cash reward should they agree to help. His first encounter pledges him a broken face if he doesn’t drive away sharply. This is a interesting start as he doesn’t reveal his intentions at all. Indeed we have no idea of what his intentions are until late into his second pick up—a young soldier wanting a lift back to base but instead hesitatingly agrees to an extended drive only to be confronted with the open grave which Mr. Badii intends to rest himself in after taking pills. “At 6AM, come here and shout my name. If I answer, pull me out. If I don’t, throw twenty shovels of earth over me.” The young man promptly runs away.
After a few more pick ups, he finally comes across a man who will help him. A wisened taxidermist who delivers the tale of his own failed suicide attempt on realisation of life’s simple pleasures like the taste of cherry. This is the most moving part of the whole story, a real and genuine bid for a change in heart of Mr. Badii.
Kiarastomi has given us no reason why Badii wants to do this to himself. Throughout this graceful film he seems calm and dignified, firmly inflexible in his quest, never losing patience with any of his passengers for not wanting the part in his suicide ritual. He almost acknowledges the reasons, understands the relevant points made and still is as adamant in ending his own life. His mind is made up and nothing will get in the way.
The pace of the film is very slow which only adds to the rich tapestry we will eventually be presented with which is this: that we should gorge ourselves on life, wallow in its beauty and take each moment with such zest and zeal that we will never even meditate on self murder. Kiarostami said that he wanted to make a life affirming film though the subject is death. He has succeeded marvellously.
In Farsi with English subtitles.