Directed by: Abbas Kiarostami
Written by: Abbas Kiarostami
Starring: Homayoun Ershadi, Abdolrahman Bagheri, Afshin Khorshid Bakhtiari, Safar Ali Moradi
Money can make the common person do wild things with the value it provides, but propositions cross a line not all are ready to cross. Something the protagonist of this film tries to evoke from the random people he seeks to carry out a duty he cannot complete himself. Deft, effective, and poignant, Taste of Cherry strings together a distinguished story through its simplicity.
Driving through the streets of Tehran, Badii (Homayoun Ershadi) seeks a specific type of laborer to complete a specific task. It just so happens that he wants to commit suicide and will pay a hefty sum to an individual who will help cover his dead body after he has passed. The grave is already dug, all he needs is the person to finish the process.
The task Badii would like completed comes as quite the shock when first stated in the film, as it adds context to the beginning of the film. It begins with him driving through Tehran looking for someone to complete this job for him. In that drive he sees many men out in the street looking for work. These men support their families through manual labor and they wander hoping to find something that would allow them to garner wages. Badii appears to be very selective with whom he chooses as he drives by and sees plenty of men who would gladly take on the opportunity, especially with the sum he’s ready to dispense. He drives his Range Rover, as these men struggle, which displays a divide between them.
Through the process of the film, he picks up different people and offers them the opportunity, which leads to a conversation and the morals surrounding what Badii wants to complete along with the implications of helping him. Each person he picks up brings a different perspective to the table as they each try to talk him out of it. The nature of the conversations makes each of them visually uncomfortable and questions their moral fortitude. Mysteriously, Badii never discloses exactly why he has made the decision to end his own life. It would certainly add context, but it ultimately doesn’t matter for the purpose of the narrative. The sole focus of the story lies in the conversations and what committing suicide means in this world and the afterlife.
As simple as the narrative structure becomes, the visual display looks tremendous with how the camera moves from the conversations in the car to aerial shots that display the red world around them with what appears to be mountains of dirt. Within those mountains is the future resting place of Badii. The surrounding area defines the environment as much as the people do. Through his driving, Badii encounters people from different Middle East nations seeking for work. I’m not an expert on this history of the region, but Badii talks with them about the wars that have taken place, which has driven folks from one country to another. It makes it common for Baddi to speak to people originally from Afghanistan and Iraq now living in Iran, where the film takes place. This movement indicates all of the carnage that has led people to seek refuge and employment in other nations. A completely Eastern perspective on the manner that becomes their everyday life.
Iran has delivered some tremendous works of art in the past few decades and Taste of Cherry certainly contributed to that with its Palme D’Or victory at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. The depth in conversation that was captured through such minimalist storytelling techniques demonstrates exceptional skill behind and in front of the camera. A virtuous piece of work that grapples with a dark subject matter in a delicate and poignant way.