Abbas Kiarostami died on July 4th 2016. He was 76.
With a career starting in the 1970’s, evolving in the 1980-90’s and culminating with the Palme d’Or Win at Cannes in 1997 for The Taste of Cherry, the Iranian Filmmaker was a major influence on modern cinema (he was also a major educational voice in Iran).
A perfect example of the freshness of this voice and influence is Through the Olive Trees (1994).
After a terrible Earthquake, an Iranian film director tries to recreate the marriage of a young couple using amateur local actors from different backgrounds. The kind of marriage that wouldn’t find an agreement in real life. But the director doesn’t know the young man is really in Love and would like to propose…
Since its beginning, Cinema has often turn the light on itself. Though sometimes it is done with great artistic achievement, the exercise seems always quite narcissist. On the other hand, when Abbas Kiarostami does so (and often it is) there is this sense of humanity and generosity with his peculiar way to reach for real people while incorporating them into the story. It produces powerful inner story of the common people that lacks even in great praised films of the genre.
With Through the Olive Trees, Kiarostami chooses to explore death (he’s on the scene of a major tragedy still fresh to memory) to talk about the value of life. In the same breath, he never loses sight of what his medium is all about: the spectator. The director offers the kind of déja vu patrons usually need to relate, taking here the shape of an impossible love story between the two (officially) non-actors he selected in the lead. But his approach of this universal theme, making them play their forbidden love in front of the camera, is as fresh as it can be. The result is a beautifully shot rarity among the numerous films on film with an amazing point of view on life and people living in it.
Through the Olive Trees is a masterpiece of human kindness with a simple but profound philosophy.