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four films that entered the world’s hundred best films – Movies and TV series on DTF

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Films about life, death and attempts to preserve humanity in a stale society.

In 2018, the BBC invited 209 film critics from 43 countries to choose the 100 best non-English films. Four works by Iranian directors have been among the top films in the history of cinema. Three of them belong to one director – Abbas Kiarostami.

The director so carefully intertwines artistic and documentary genres in his films that it is difficult to distinguish between fictional and real events. Another picture belongs to the youngest and most famous Iranian director at the moment – Asgar Farhadi.

Due to the many prohibitions and topics that cannot be talked about, the film consists of subtexts and interspaces. Despite the international recognition of these works, in Iran they did not gain much popularity among viewers and approval from critics.

The Taste of Cherries (1997)

For the drama “Cherry Taste”, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami chose non-professional actors in his usual style of work. The future lead actor, architect Homayun Ershadi, he noticed in a nearby car, standing in a traffic jam – and immediately invited to participate in the film.

Most of the film was shot in the car, the director himself moved from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat, giving remarks to the actors. Thus, the characters practically do not appear in the frame together, and Kiarostami plays every role.

Buddy, a middle-aged man, decided to commit suicide. To do this, he chose an unusual way: to swallow pills and lie in the grave. But the hero has one problem – he needs an assistant who can bury him later. He goes in search of such a person.

Along the way, Buddy meets three men with whom he manages to share his plan. A Kurdish soldier is the first to take the passenger seat, followed by an Afghan seminarian and finally a Turkish taxidermist. Some are horrified by Buddy’s idea, run away from the car, some try to persuade the hero, and some share their experiences of suicide attempts.

The film is full of symbolism: a Persian hero meets three representatives of ethnic minorities in Iran. All of them represent three main types of activity: warrior, clergyman, craftsman. Each represents a different generation – a young soldier, a mature seminarian and an elderly taxidermist.

The protagonist is looking for someone who will help him, even for big money, in fact to commit a crime. After all, Iran lives by the Qur’an, and the Holy Book forbids suicide. What is the reason for Buddy’s decision and why he decided to die this way, we can only guess.

One of the fellow travelers shares with the hero a story about how a cherry saved him from suicide: he decided to hang himself on it, but before that he tasted berries from a tree. For the sake of their taste, he stayed alive.

In 1997, the film won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. For the first time in history, the prize went to an Iranian director. Later, the film was included in the top ten films of 1997 and the Cannes Film Festival in the history of its existence. In the BBC’s ranking of the 100 best films in a foreign language, “The Taste of Cherry” ranks 97th.

“Where is a friend’s house” (1987)

Director Abbas Kiarostami borrowed the title for the film from the famous Iranian poet Sepehri Sohrab, whom children attend in schools. Therefore, for the Iranian audience, the film has a special sound. The main roles in the drama were played by boys-brothers and, as was usual with Kiarostami, non-professional actors.

The director managed to show how hypocritical the social traditions of society are. When adults instill in children, even in the most brutal ways, discipline, but they are completely rude and indifferent to the affairs and feelings of the child. When cruelty is justified by family tradition, his father beat his grandfather like that, so he can do the same.

Nevertheless, Kiarostami gives viewers hope – while the heart of the protagonist, an eight-year-old boy, is able to resist indifference and seek a way to be honest and fair, all is not lost.

A stubborn and strict teacher scolds a student, little Nematzad, for doing his homework on a piece of paper instead of in a notebook. In front of the child, he tears up his work and, despite the boy’s tears, promises him a deduction if it happens again.

When he returned home, his classmate Nematzadu – Ahmed understands that he accidentally took a friend’s notebook from school with his own, and the next day the teacher will punish him. Then the child tells the adults and asks them to help him return the notebook to a classmate, but they already have too many household problems to think about such little things.

Finding no understanding or support in anyone, Ahmed decides to find Nematzad’s house himself, even if he, an eight-year-old boy, has to walk to someone else’s village and go around all the houses looking for a friend. Despite the obvious indifference of the adults he meets, he understands that he can’t let his classmate down.

The film was presented at various international festivals and won an award in Locarno. In the BBC’s ranking of the 100 best paintings in a foreign language, “Where is a friend’s house” ranks 94th.

Close-up (1990)

“Close-up” is probably the most famous and unusual work of director Abbas Kiarostami. In 1989, he read an article in Sobush magazine about a certain Sabzian who was in prison on charges of fraud. Kiarostami became so interested in the story that he immediately postponed all his other film projects and went to prison to meet Sabzian in person.

The accused told the director about his life, and he decided to make a film based on it. The highlight of the picture was that Kiarostami invited real participants in all the roles in this story. Therefore, “Close-up” was at the intersection of feature and documentary films.

Sabzian comes from a simple family and works in a regular printing house. His life is boring and sad, and only movies brighten up the gray days. The hero especially loves the films of Iranian director Mohsen Mahmalbaf.

One day on the bus, a woman named Akhanki notices her companion reading the novel The Cyclist, and notes that she really enjoyed the film adaptation of a book made by Mahmalbaf. Then the idea comes to Sabzian – he pretends to be a famous director.

He has never known respect and honor in his life, and then Akhanki invites him to his well-off home and introduces him to decent relatives. False Mahmalbaf promises to shoot them in his new picture and takes money from them. But the deception is quickly revealed.

However, the film is not just about a swindler, it reflects the realities of Iranian life. Sabzian is full of love for art and spirituality, he dreams of a bright and full life, but is forced to work at an unloved job to somehow support the child. When he gets a chance, albeit briefly, to become who he always wants to be, he is deceived into experiencing the emotions he has always dreamed of.

In a real trial, where the director Kiarostami received permission to shoot, Sabzian told his story touchingly and explained the reasons for his actions. Tormented by hopelessness and misunderstanding, he watched Mahmalbaf’s films and found in them what he had not seen from those around him. He sincerely confessed his love for art and the profession of director, raising it to a new class.

For the finale of the picture, Kiarostami invited the real Mahmalbaf to meet with Sabzian. Viewers do not hear what the characters are talking about, due to a technical marriage with sound. However, the director himself admitted that the venerable Mahmalbaf responded to the sincerity and endless veneration of the impostor with remarks from the script, which looked as artificial as possible, so he chose to remove the sound from their dialogue.

It is difficult to explain how Iranian censorship allowed the picture to be shown at all, because the protagonist directly states that in moments of despair he turned not to religion but to art. However, the Iranian audience still met the picture very cool. She has gained much more recognition abroad, having won several international awards – in Montreal and Istanbul. In the BBC’s ranking of the 100 best foreign language paintings, “Close-up” ranks 39th.

Divorce of Nader and Simin (2011)

The drama “Divorce of Nader and Simin” was shot by Iranian director Asgar Farhadi. The director is not too spoiled in his homeland, without allocating funds for his projects, so he spent the money earned from the last film “About Ellie” for the film.

In 2010, plans were threatened with failure – Farhadi was banned from working by Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation for speaking out in support of opposition director Mohsen Mahmalbaf and house arrest director Jafar Panahi at a festival. Farhadi had to explain and apologize to continue working on the painting.

The film is based on the story of Nader and Simin, who decided to divorce after fourteen years of marriage. The main contradiction is that Simin wants to leave Iran, and Nader is against, because he has a father with Alzheimer’s disease, and he can not leave the old man without support.

At the first hearing, the court does not divorce the couple, sending them home, but Simin is no longer going to live with Nader and goes to his parents. The couple has a daughter, Terme (played by the director’s real daughter, Sarina Farhadi), and she chooses to stay with her father.

It is difficult for an adult working man to cope with a weak father on his own, and he takes in a nurse, Razie, who is in her fourth month of pregnancy, and her religion does not approve of such work. To emphasize the ambiguity of the situation, the viewer is shown how the heroine is tormented by doubts when she needs, for example, to undress an elderly man. To do this, she even calls to consult a specialist in religion.

In this way, the director unobtrusively demonstrates many of the restrictions in everyday life that are dictated by religion. However, all the heroes of the drama have to violate the main tenets of religion – they lie or hide the truth. The divorce process, which involved only the participation of spouses, becomes the starting point for a number of events in which other people are involved, forced to cheat for their own interests.

For two hours, the viewer watches the realistic story and everyday life of several Iranians, occupying one side or the other. It is difficult to decide who is right, because it is worth taking someone’s side, the plot changes direction. It remains only to observe what verdict the director himself will make.

The film “Divorce of Nader and Simin” turned out to be very successful for Asgar Farhadi. The drama was highly acclaimed and won dozens of awards, including the Berlin Film Festival, the Golden Globe and the Oscars, for the first time in the history of Iranian cinema. In the BBC ranking of the 100 best paintings in a foreign language “Divorce Nader and Simin” ranks 21st.

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