Movie Reviews, Commentary & More

Taste of Cherry - Movie Review

Death. Many serious filmmakers' favourite subject, death has been discussed, dissected, analyzed and interpreted. Needless to say, talented directors have also made parodies of old age, the futility of fighting fate, loneliness, problems of common man and afterlife - all in relation to death. And then we have numerous products that affirm life, that convey how wonderful the world is, that tell us tomorrow will be a beautiful day and equivalent messages by giving a twisted meaning to death. But Iranian writer/director Abbas Kiorastami does something new: he cheats the audience by dealing with death.

The top prize winner at the 1997 Cannes film festival, 'Taste of Cherry' deals with Badii, a middle-aged man whose only wish is to die. He drives around a city suburb looking for a man who is in need of money for genuine reasons and is also a law-abiding/religious man to fill his pit with mud so that he can have a decent burial and a sense of satisfaction that comes from having helped someone in need. He drives around, talking to people, just like any strangers would converse. And this happens for the first ninety minutes - it's like writing a boring essay on how to bore your audience.

Badii is visibly depressed and right from the early scenes we know that his life doesn't interest him. After giving hitches for a few who aren't ready to honour his death-wish, he finds an old man who accords for 2 lakh tomanos which will go towards his ailing child. Although the old man accepts his request, he talks about how much more there is to one's life and talks of his experiences when during his weak moments he decided to kill himself and how a sweet mulberry changed his outlook. Though he's in need of money, he doesn't want to find Badii dead in the pit.

<Spoiler>The climax is where Kiorastami really lets his audience down. We see Badii, after swallowing sleeping pills, come and lie down in the pit which he had dug earlier. He had seen the sunset that evening which the old man had described as wonderful. Lying down, he looks at the passing clouds and the well rounded moon. Then we hear thunder storms and then we see Badii close his eyes. And then we see Kiorastami, the direcor himself shooting a filler scene calling that the shoot is over. Heck, I just wanted to strangle the crew for making me wait so long for what is an ambiguous ending. What... are we supposed to draw endings as per our wish?</Spoiler>

By never allowing us to see into Badii's past, the director makes it difficult for us to sympathize with the protagonist. "So what if he dies at all?" is the question on my mind near the end of the movie. There are raving reviews for this movie, but I don't find any poignancy here - only plain vanilla. I saw 'Fahrenheit 9/11', a recent Palm D'or winner - a pretty ordinary documentary that very biasedly presented a forceless argument. And then we have films like 'Taxi Driver' and 'Pulp Fiction' that have won the Golden Palm. An obvious conclusion would be to attribute the winner of that year to the quality and exposure of the jury that year - but to say something like that with my limited cinematic exposure would be like a beetle's opinion on Milky Way*.

* Thank you Mr.Doyle.

3 Responses to “Taste of Cherry - Movie Review”

  1. # Blogger Jimmy M. Espana


  2. # Anonymous Srinidhi

    I agree with your point that this movie was a little difficult to sit through and tended to verge on the border of boredom at times.

    But i thought it was an amazing movie. The entire narration and the way it led up to the climax.

    Before we disagree, I would need a full post to say why i feel so, and promise to put up such a post and track-back here.  

  3. # Blogger arunthealmighty

    abbas kiarostami says.....

    Different viewers have different opinions about that movie. Committing suicide is forbidden in Islam, of course, and is not even spoken of. But some religious people have liked the film because they felt that, just as you said, it shows a quest to connect with something more heavenly, something above physical life. The scene at the end, where you see cherry blossoms and beautiful things after he's died, has that message-that he has opened the door to heaven. It wasn't a hellish thing he did, it was a heavenly transition.  

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