Taste of Cherry

Taste of Cherry ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry intrigued me from the moment I first read its basic synopsis on IMDb, which goes as follows:

"An Iranian man drives his truck in search of someone who will quietly bury him under a cherry tree after he commits suicide.

It seems so simple, so bleak, but yet so brilliant; I knew it was something I wanted to see. The film happily succeeds on all of those levels. It is gratifyingly simple and down-to-earth, it is terribly bleak and beautiful, and it is brilliant as well. It is a perfect example of a movie that manages to exceed high expectations, and manages to maintain the level of intrigue I give towards it. It is a film that manages to create its own emotions while barely showing any of its own, and for that reason I believe the only way to do this review is by giving a plot breakdown, as no spoilers will come from knowing the plot, only from knowing the emotions.

The movie starts off with the central character driving around, apparently looking for someone. Unfortunately we as an audience already know what he is looking for from the basic film synopsis, or at least I did and any of you reading this do now as well. This doesn't have a large effect on the movie, as any quality movie should be good based on what it is giving you filmwise and how it presents its story, not the story itself, but still you get the sense that there would be some sort of mystery trying to learn what exactly the man is trying to do if you were unaware. But I digress...

The central man (I'll call him Badii from now on) finds a young, sheepish soldier along the road and offers to drive him to the barracks. They enter into a chat of rich dialogue that feels real enough to flow perfectly but is still thematic enough to keep it on its proper path. Badii learns about the soldier. Badii learns about the soldier's past, his home, his plans, his life. Badii retells a story of his own past time in the Iranian service; how it was the happiest part of his life and how he found such joy in strengthening the comradeship through counting during marches. Badii advises the soldier that he should do the same, and that perhaps it will help him be less shy.

Finally Badii offers the young man a proposition, and drives the car on a winding hillside road to a small tree where they stop. Beneath the tree is a grave. Badii asks the young man to return to the spot the next morning and, after calling Badii's name out to make sure there is no response, fill the grave covering Badii's dead body. The young soldier seems scared and ultimately refuses the proposition despite the intense sum of money offered in return. Badii continues his search.

After a couple more attempts and some quiet pondering by a construction site, Badii finds his man, a taxidermist who needs money for his Anemia sickened son. Still even this man is hesitant, and tries his best to persuade Badii to reconsider his suicide. The taxidermist tells a story of an attempted suicide of his own. As he tied his noose on a mulberry tree, he decided to take a bite of one of the mulberries, of which he finds succulent. He ends up distracted by eating the mulberries, until it becomes dawn and his eyes open to the morning sunrise and all the green beauty of the world. It is a touching simple story, that not only manages to make Badii observably reconsider his choice of suicide, but it also affects the audience, teaching them to always open up to a different outlook on life.

The film then comes to a close, and it is a beautiful ending. It is a chilling ending to a grim film. However the reason it feels so significant is you can still sense some hope in there, and it is ambiguous enough to give off both dark and depressing emotions and the right amount of hope. As the screen cuts to black, it all finishes.

...but then it comes back on. Low-res camcorder footage begins to play, initially filming the hillside, that appears as a beautiful shade of green as opposed to how dreary and dead yellow it appeared in the film. The footage is shown to be of Kiarostami's crew, filming a group of soldiers marching, a scene that appeared in the film soon after the soldier's departure from Badii's life. Immediately when the film switches to this ending after the spectacularly dark ending it had, you begin to question "why?". However soon, as some jazz music begins to play and the soldiers are shown happily resting along the road in between shots, it becomes clear. This ending provides a happy ending in the best way the film could. To me, any other attempt at a happy ending would be the movie's downfall, but this one does not, and it all ties back to what Badii had said earlier. He had said that the moments in life he was happiest was while we was in the army, and with this completely real footage of these resting soldiers, it almost brings us to a time in Badii's life where he was happy. It gives a feeling of a completed character arc of Badii, a character who we knew such little about. And with all this, the perfectly sad ending adds on a perfect happy one as well.

Taste of Cherry is a slow bare masterpiece, a true parable of life and death, and a fulfilled reflection upon life as well.

Adam liked these reviews