Monday, February 21, 2011

The Wind Will Carry Us (1999)

a bowl of fresh milk

In The Wind Will Carry Us, written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami, with stunning, exquisite, cinematography by Mahmoud Kalari, three filmmakers from the big city journey to a remote village, seemingly a catacomb built into the side of a mountain, to stealthily document a primitive funeral ceremony of a 'hundred year-old plus' woman. One problem: she hasn't died yet. And the sooner the complaining men can complete their mission and return to Tehran, the better. They have lives after all.
I'm reminded of the funniest film ever made, It's A Gift (1934), with W.C Fields, where he plays a grocery store owner somewheres in Jersey dreaming of buying an orange ranch featured in a brochure in sunny California with the inheritance from his wife's clinging-to-life Uncle Bean. Bean's death means California, Here We Come! But Kiarostami's film is no comedy(except for a murmured wish for a pickax to hurry things along). The old woman's death we can go home.

And so they wait. And watch. But we are shown only one of the visitors, Behzad - or 'The Engineer,' as any visitor from the outside world is named by the villagers. Behzad, the only one attempting to blend in to daily life, is guided by Farzad, a young boy dedicated to his school work, told only that the visitors are here to look for treasure, and the main informant on the well-being of the old woman. Kiarostami has us watching Behzad react much like we watch invalid Jeffries spying on creepy Thorwald in Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954). The mystery to why these strangers have arrived is slowly peeled back. It is turtle-slow going, around 40 minutes in, until we begin to understand why these filmmakers have ventured 450 miles from Tehran. Kiarostami never shows us who Belzad is talking to most of the time. In fact, the only place in the village Belzad can communicate to the outside World with his mobile phone is by standing in the elevated silent graveyard. We ride with him there many times in glorious vistas of wind-swept fields of gold. And so, amongst the invisible, we listen closer to conversation it seems. And what we hear is poetry - literally. Iranians often sprinkle poetry into everyday conversation, and this film has a generous heaping, including the film's title from the legendary Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzād (1935-67). My favorite poem is a stanza from Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyait, quoted by a wonderful nature-loving doctor on a motorcycle:

They tell me the other world is as beautiful as a houri from heaven!
Yet I say that the juice of the vine is better.
Prefer the present to those fine promises.
Even a drum sounds melodious from afar.

The heartbreak of a broken friendship ensues after young Farzad innocently answers inquiries about an uncle's departure. 'I can not tell a lie,' the boy states. The uncle's leaving is a signal to Behzad's impatient crew the old woman's health is improving. After belittling the boy, Behzad attempts to apologize later to no avail. Sometimes poetry is unforgiving. One day, Behzad, seeking some fresh milk for his tea in a dark cellar, discovers the real wonder in being alive, not waiting around for someone to hurry up and die, for some funeral ritual.

My first Iranian film.
Written exclusively for
The Iranian Film Blog-a-thon


Blogger Sheila O'Malley said...

This is so beautifully written, Phil. It's a difficult film to describe, and you do an excellent job. I love your thoughts on poetry, too.

Thanks so much for participating!

2/22/2011 8:00 AM  
Blogger phil said...

Thank you, Sheila!

I really struggled with writing it - half way through I panicked and had no idea how to close it out.

Does that happen to you?

The blog-a-thon is a great idea, and I'm looking forward to seeing all those films for the first time.

2/22/2011 7:12 PM  
Blogger Sheila O'Malley said...

Phil - it happens to me almost every time I try to write something that has great meaning to me. I become the queen of procrastination - I will do ANYTHING other than write. And that's usually when I know I'm "onto" something - when I flat out DO NOT want to write the damn thing.

Beautiful work. It's such a poetic weird movie - you really captured some of that.

Thanks again for participating. Very meaningful!!

2/22/2011 8:17 PM  
Blogger RAHIM MAAROF said...

Dear Sir,

You do write amazing stories. Keep posting
I enjoyed reading.

Rahim Maarof

10/21/2015 9:06 PM  

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