As I sat down to write the tribute for Abbas Kiarostami, who passed away two days ago, all I could think of is “just watch his films”. It is not as simple as it might sound, putting someone’s lifetime efforts in words. Struggling for words to describe their work is always the most justified response to the brilliance and genius that they brought to our world. As he leaves us, it is only duty of us to “slow down, pause and appreciate the beauty of art on a frame.”
The common question that a filmmaker or artist from any part of the world had to encounter at some point in their career is “Does the art reflect the society or does it affect the society?”. To put in simple terms “Are our stories on frame or canvas taken from the society?” or “Are our stories on frame or canvas meant to feedback into the society?”
Abbas Kiarostami explains it rather straight forward, with no second thoughts. “There is nothing invented or created by the filmmaker or an artist. The artist takes only what naturally occurs in the Universe and visually narrate a story that we, do not pause to experience in its right form”. His movies explain how he stands by this philosophy.
Calling himself as “unplanned filmmaker”, Abbas revolutionized the Iranian Cinema. My first association with Iranian cinema comes from Jafar Panahi when I saw his “Taxi”, “Closed Curtain” and “This is not a Film”. As a simple movie enthusiast from India, my exposure to world cinema is limited to film festival movie list. But, I must agree that Jafar Panahi played a huge role in my understanding of Iranian Cinema. He himself is a student of Abbas and his style of filmmaking cannot be completely differentiated from his master.
As I explored the world of Iranian cinema, there is no escaping the visuals of Abbas Kiarostami. The first film I saw of him is “Like Someone in Love” and I was blown away by it. Then I watched the four movies which were termed as part of “Koker Trilogy” and “Taste of Cherry”. Most of the present generation filmmakers from advanced privileged industries often struggle to make “pure storytelling” as the base of their films. They have often carried away with the availability of technology so much, where the underlying story gets lost in the way.
This is the beauty of Iranian cinema. With the excellence work of narrators such as Abbas and Jafar, the stories form the core center of the movie and these stories could as well be the story of your friend or yourself. Your desire as a kid to watch a soccer game, your compassion towards your friend who probably might lose his life during the earthquake and your struggle to get a basic education form the premise of their works. His work is mainly centered around children and these characters of children extend their roles in follow-up movies.
For instance, the child you watch through his trilogy is the same, seen through the eyes of multiple characters and operate in an ever changing world around him.
Having children at the epicenter of your film is not only interesting but immensely challenging. “Children are not there (in the movie) for fame or money. They are there on a specific agreement between you and them. If you step out their agreement zone, they are no longer there. They are out of it. You can never get them back once u lose them”
His way of filmmaking is not rule book based. It was straight from his heart. His lead actors are from the real world and their conflicts are real. The only thing that is not real is the touch of it. You might not be able to touch and sense the characters but you are already experiencing their world.
His love and inspiration, as he many times stated, comes from Jean-Luic Godard, Akira Kurosawa, Chris Marker, Poet Rumi and the New York City. This is what Akira Kurosawa had to say about his films.
Akira Kurosawa, the greatest filmmaker himself, speaks of Kiarostami’s films as:
“Words cannot describe my feelings about them … When Satyajit Ray passed on, I was very depressed. But after seeing Kiarostami’s films, I thanked God for giving us just the right person to take his place.”
As a regular Indian film viewer, the movies of Satyajit Ray were an eye opener for the experimental style of filmmaking it was and to follow it up with the works of Akira Kurosawa and Abbas Kiarostami only makes it difficult to appreciate the work of others.
But, what these filmmakers leave us with is not a discussion on which style of filmmaking is better than the other but the ability to acknowledge varied styles of filmmaking. After all, the sole aim of any art form’s is to interpret the world around us in a more artistic way that you often try to escape from.
Abbas Kiarostami – You will be remembered as a genius who accomplished his task in this universe with a brilliance that could only spread across the geographies and generations. May your Soul Rest in Piece!
Image Courtesy: Indiewire.com