An Iranian woman in her mid-thirties (Mania Akbari) takes a series of car journeys
through Tehran, accompanied by various passengers, including her sister and her argumentative ten-year-old son (Amin Akbari) who resents her divorce and second marriage. Curious about the experiences and lives of others, she also holds conversations with a number of hitchhikers she picks up, including a prostitute, an old lady travelling to a mosque, and several other women in unhappy relationships with men.
Review by Jake Wilson:
Despite his long career and daunting international reputation, this digital video experiment is the first film by the Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami to get a release in Australian cinemas, and audiences who are new to his work may find it rather baffling. While the publicity would have you believe that it's a progressive-minded treatise on the condition of Iranian women, the heroine, a middle-class divorcee who travels and takes photographs, is no simple victim. As far as any clear theme can be gleaned from the typically meandering improvised dialogue, the questions she's trying to answer for herself are similar to those put by Simone de Beauvoir in her preface to The Second Sex: "How can a human being in a woman's situation attain fulfilment? Which roads are open to her? Which are blocked?"
Figuring out which roads are open and which are blocked is also important for this character on a more mundane level, since Kiarostami's movies don't begin with "ideas" so much as with immediate, childlike perceptions of time and space. For instance, he likes to follow the trajectories of objects that roll along the ground, whether these are apples, tin cans, or cars. Where his 2000 masterpiece The Wind Will Carry Us was as visually extravagant as an MGM musical – transforming a real-life hilltop village into an elaborate movie set filled with unexpected obstacles and winding paths - here the entire film consists of close-up views of the driver and her various passengers, narrowing the spatial focus to a single fixed yet mobile point.
Yet the city we glimpse through the car window is never simply a backdrop: among other things, the film is a detailed documentary study of the physical and mental challenge of driving (turning corners, changing gears, dealing with other vehicles cutting in). An obvious symbolism emerges as we watch the heroine steer a course through this disorderly maze, making decisions about which direction she wants to go and when it's safe to proceed. But Kiarostami's methods are never precisely those of allegory: rather, he invites us to ponder the wealth of meanings automatically present in the chaos of unfiltered experience, as if the best metaphor for life were life itself.
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CAST: Mania Akbari, Amin Maher, Kamran Adl, Roya Arabashi
PRODUCER: Marin Karmitz, Abbas Kiarostami
DIRECTOR: Abbas Kiarostami
SCRIPT: Abbas Kiarostami
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Abbas Kiarostami
EDITOR: Vahid Ghazi, Abbas Kiarostami, Bahman Kiarostami
MUSIC: Howard Blake
PRODUCTION DESIGN: not credited
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 30, 2003 (Melbourne only)