Taste of Cherry ★★★★½

Abbas Kiarostami does something quite remarkable with Taste of Cherry by looking at the all-encompassing nature of suicidal thoughts in a way that feels completely genuine. Not for one second is he guilty of being overly sentimental, ostentatious or preachy because he clearly understands that such thoughts aren't usually displayed in a conspicuous manner. It's such a pure view since feelings of hopelessness often infect a person's life through gradual, undetectable means before overwhelming them entirely. This film strikingly captures that stage where dying appears to be the only option for the person suffering as they've been dragged so far below the surface that the light has grown dim and it seems impossible for them to imagine that anything resembling joy will ever return to their life.

We never know what has driven Mr. Badii to take such drastic action and meticulously plan his own death, but that only makes the message stronger as he effectively represents the fact that anyone's mental state could be struck by intense despair at any time for any number of reasons. He continuously drives over the same terrain looking for someone to bury him, his physical body trapped in a loop in a similar way to how depression has imprisoned his mind. I personally think the three men he tries to convince embody the common approaches to those with such thoughts. The soldier lacks experience on such feelings so he can offer little beyond discomfort, the seminarian is content to listen but uncertain and unwilling to help (citing or possibly hiding behind his religious views), while the taxidermist has survived comparable sorrow and uses the everyday wonders that we take for granted as reason to carry on living.

Something acutely apparent is the meditative atmosphere, aided by the long takes and the shifting perspectives, that is at once deeply melancholic and serenely beautiful. It creates a contrast between a world full of potential freedom and a world through the eyes of someone disconsolate. The environment is vividly alive before the three conversations with labourers side by side, farmers working in the fields, military personnel excercising, children playing and birds in flight. But the closer Badii gets to his final resting place, the more barren and desolate the roads become as if to reflect his own forsaken psyche. The countryside is filled with the roar of heavy machinery grinding away at the ground, yet the anguished soul of the man it echoes around remains silent. Concurrently, Tehran itself is coated in a golden hue that emphasises both the natural beauty of the landscape and the haziness of a fractured outlook.

It's unclear if the answers Badii receives will affect his final decision. Some might see this as too vague, which I can't really argue with, but it feels to me as if that's the entire point. The complexity and individuality of suicide is what makes it such a difficult topic to discuss because there's rarely an easy answer. As for the last scene, who can know what it truly means. Maybe it's just following Kiarostami's meta trademark by showing us the artifice of filmmaking, or maybe it's a way to bring the story back to reality because this type of thing happens too often in real life. I suppose it encapsulates what makes film so special, any opinion or interpretation can hold some merit.

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