Wednesday, December 23, 2020

2020 Blind Spot Series: Through the Olive Trees


Written, directed, designed, and edited by Abbas Kiarostami, Through the Olive Trees is the story of an actor who pines for the woman he marries in another film as he pursues her while dealing with the people he met in that film a few years before. The third and final film of a trilogy of films set around the village of Koker in the north of Iran, it’s a film that is based on the production of Life, and Nothing More… as it once again blurs the line of what is real and what is fiction. Starring Mohammad Ali Keshavarz, Farhad Kheradmand, Zarifeh Shiva, Hossein Rezai, Tahereh Ladanian, Hocine Redai, Babak Ahmadpour, Ahmad Ahmadpour, and Mahbanou Darabi. Through the Olive Trees is an intoxicating and ravishing film from Abbas Kiarostami.

The film is about a fictionalized re-telling of the production of Life, and Nothing More… in which there’s a scene of the filmmaker having a conversation with a newlywed as that person is trying to pursue the woman who is playing his wife into marrying him. It’s a film that explores life in Koker where a filmmaker is trying to make a film but is dealing with a lot of the drama that is happening behind the scenes. The film’s screenplay by Abbas Kiarostami definitely blur the lines between fiction and reality as there are people from the two previous films of his trilogy who appear as themselves while the stonemason named Hossein (Hossein Rezai) is trying to pursue his co-star in Tahereh (Tahereh Ladanian) who has no interest in him. The script also showcases a filmmaker, his assistant, and others trying to get the scene made while looking upon the surroundings they’re in.

Kiarostami’s direction is largely straightforward though he does blur the line of what is real and what is fantasy throughout the film as it is shot on location in Koker, Iran with the zig-zag road on a hill being a common image throughout all three films. While there aren’t a lot of close-ups in the film in favor of wide and medium shots to get a scope of the locations as well as this one singular recreation of a scene from Life, and Nothing More… with its lone static camera shot that lingers for a few minutes. Kiarostami also creates shots that goes on for a few minutes such as a scene of the director’s assistant driving a car and picking up a few passengers including Ahmad and Babak Ahmadpour from Where is the Friend’s House? who were picking up flowers for the scene. Kiarostami also maintains this air of realism where the filmmaker (Mohammad Ali Keshavarz) is talking to young women for the role that needs for the scene as it’s the first scene of the film.

Also serving as the film’s editor and production designer, Kiarostami manages to recreate the home all of its detail for the scene from Life, and Nothing More… as well as maintain something straightforward in the editing in order to let shots and conversations linger for a few minutes. Most notably in how he creates that scene and then cut to a shot of the director yelling “cut” as it has this repetition that is expected in a recreation. There are these elements that do feel like a documentary film with the usage of hand-held cameras as well as scenes that feel like a flashback or something that blurs the line of reality and fiction. The film’s final moments return to this narrative of Hossein pursuing Tahereh despite the fact that he’s illiterate and doesn’t have a home yet wants to be there for her. The final scenes don’t just play into that story but also the location with the director looking on from afar as if the fourth wall is starting to break as it is this ambiguous moment in this singular final wide shot. Overall, Kiarostami crafts an astonishing and evocative film about an actor trying to woo his co-star on a film set in Koker.

Cinematographers Hossein Jafarian and Farhad Saba do amazing work with the film’s cinematography in capturing many of the natural lighting as the entire film is shot on the day to capture its sunny look and the vibrant green colors of the olive trees. Sound editor Changiz Sayad does brilliant work with the film’s sound in capturing many of the natural elements as well as some of the music that is played that includes the film’s music by Amir Farshid Rahimian and Chema Rosas that is a largely a traditional Iranian folk sound with the only non-diegetic music piece played is a classical cut by Domenico Cimarosa.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Ahmad and Babek Ahmadpour as themselves helping out the film crew, Kheda Barech Defai as the school teacher from Where is the Friend’s House? as someone that Mrs. Shiva picks up early in the film, Hocine Redai as a young woman the director wants for the film, Mahbandou Darabai as Tahereh’s grandmother, Zarifeh Shiva as the filmmaker’s assistant Mrs. Shiva, Farhad Kheradmand as himself reprising the role he was playing in Life, and Nothing More…, and Mohammed Ali Keshavarz in a superb role as the filmmaker who observes everything and everyone around him. Finally, there’s the duo of Hossein Rezai and Tahereh Ladanian in incredible performances in their respective roles as Hossein and Tahereh as actors who are hired for the scene with the former as a stone-mason trying to woo the latter as they bring a realism to their performances as well as what they’re asked to do.

Through the Olive Trees is a magnificent film from Abbas Kiarostami. Featuring a great cast, a unique blur of reality and fiction, its gorgeous locations, and its study of humanity through filmmaking. It’s a somber yet engrossing film about the process of filmmaking as well as a young man trying to pursue a young woman in an attempt to make a better future for both of them. In the end, Through the Olive Trees is an outstanding film Abbas Kiarostami.

Abbas Kiarostami Films: (The Experience) – The Traveler (1974 film) - (A Wedding) – The Report (1977 film) = (First Case, Second Case) – (Fellow Citizens) – (First Graders) – Where is the Friend's House? - Homework (1989 film)Close-Up - Life, and Nothing More... - Taste of Cherry - (The Wind Will Carry Us) – (ABC Africa) – (Ten (2002 film)) – (Five (2003 film)) – (10 on Ten) – (Shirin) – Certified Copy - Like Someone in Love - 24 Frames

© thevoid99 2020


Brittani Burnham said...

You always pick such interesting movies for these. I feel like I need to do better lol

Paula Padilla said...

Thanks, Steven, for the three excellent Kiarostami film reviews! Merry Christmas to you and your friends and family.


Dell said...

You've got me good on your last 3 Blind Spot entries. I haven't even heard of these movies. All of them sound interesting, though. Good finds.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-That's why I have a 2015 the 1001 Films You Should See Before You Die book and be a constant buyer of films from the Criterion Collection. I like to go into places that I have never been to and always take a left field. Everyone should see films by Abbas Kiarostami as I have 2 more on DVD/Blu-Ray that I can watch soon.

@Paula-Gracias, you have a nice Xmas as well.

@Wendell-Kiarostami is a unique filmmaker as I would recommend watching Close-Up as the best place to start. He's a true original.