24 Frames

24 Frames

While watching Kiarostami's 24 Frames, one can't help but be reminded of his film, Five Dedicated to Ozu (Five of course being his hour and a half long film consisting of only five shots).

In an interview about Five, Kiarostami explains part of the process of making it:

"in the making of the first film, Wood, two methods could have led to the end result. The first is the logical way, the way of cinema, the way of industry, and it benefits from the experiences and expertise of others. This method of working tells us that in order for the wood to break and disintegrate at the right time, a design is necessary. With some explosive and a remote control, the piece of wood can be broken into two at the right time. Now the piece of wood is broken into two pieces. Some higher waves are supposed to come and take one of the pieces out to sea and leave the other piece on the shore, which the waves will not be able to take out to sea. This can also be achieved, for example, with the use of a small temporary barrier. You can block the water and then release it at the right time. Then the higher waves can take the first piece away from the scene and the second piece can be fixed on the shore so that it can not be taken by the waves. The first piece can be pulled with an invisible thread - by someone who is sitting out of the frame, on a boat for example - very slowly towards the horizon until it is out of the frame. This is something that can be simply achieved through cinematic techniques and special effects.
The second method is simpler… but also more complex. This is very different from the cinematic approach, which involves the cooperation of several technicians and different people with different skills. This is a writing job and does not need a crew. One or two companions are enough. For this way of working, you need the earth, wind and water to cooperate. You need a tail wind. You need good wave. As backgammon players say, 'it’s how the dice fall that counts.'"

With this, Kiarostami takes the opportunity to tell a story about the creation of chess.

It is said that the earliest predecessor of the game chess most likely came about before the 6th Century AD and was conceived by an Indian philosopher. After much pondering about the game, the philosopher decided to present it to the Maharajah of India. So impressed with the mental game of war and logic, the Maharajah presented it to the Iranian emperor as a symbol of Indian intelligence. The wise vizier of the Iranian king, Bozorgmehr, immediately understood the strategies and secrets of the complex game and decided to expand on it. Eventually Bozorgmehr responded to the Indian philosopher with his own game, which would later be known as backgammon. The greatest difference between the two games is that backgammon requires dice, ultimately introducing the element of chance. Bozorgmehr wanted to teach the young philosopher that one must consider other factors that contribute to a game, aside from skill, intelligence, and experience, just like in real life.

Kiarostami, continues:
"I cannot deny the role of this hidden pattern - the role of accident - the occurrence or the power of destiny, neither in my personal life, nor in my work. There are moments in all my films that I must confess are not of my making. This is not humility. In my opinion, Five should be watched with this in mind, the entire Five. Episode 1, episode 3, and even 4. The difference between well-crafted cinema and this is like the difference between chess and backgammon. In my opinion, chess does not allow for these undeniable powers. Everything is ruled and controlled by the gods of the scene - the producer and the director. Not being a backgammon player myself, I respect backgammon players. The reason that backgammon players boast is this, I think - they bank on their luck, and allow for this as a determining parameter in the game. Because really, in my opinion, if we imagine life without this parameter, we have lost some of our sense of realism. Now, digital filmmaking helps a lot with the kind of cinema that is more about performance and related to hidden patterns. For me, who does not believe, as such, in literary narrative in cinema, the period of making Five was an opportunity for me to be the audience. During this time, I could tell my personal story as if I was the audience. In my opinion, sitting in a cinema seat has accustomed the audience to a mental laziness."

If Five is Kiarostami playing backgammon, than 24 Frames is Kiarostami appearing to play backgammon but in reality he's playing chess. In fact, it seems to me that Kiarostami, brilliant as he is, doesn't necessarily agree with his own statement. Kiarostami after all is the one who has constantly showed us throughout his career that all cinema is artificial. Whether it be tackling the actual film form of documenting reality in Close-Up, or suggesting that there is no such thing as an 'original' in Certified Copy, Kiarostami has highlighted time and time again that the closest we can come to reality in cinema is that of a reality that is constructed. And with 24 Frames, Kiarostami has taken this idea to it's peak by crafting a film where the reality is entirely constructed.

When considering this, one must reevaluate their perception on the film's use of special effects. For the most part, the effects look pretty good. However at certain moments, particularly those involving movement of animals, the special effects appear very flawed. On the surface, these flawed moments could be seen as merely a poorly done job. But I think that's too easy. It seems to me that these awkward special effects moments are meant to bring to the spectator's attention the idea of the fact that the animals are entirely constructed. Every seemingly random movement the animals make is in fact, not so random. It's completely manufactured and plotted out. So the weird moments in special effects turn out to be the only indicator that what we are seeing is not real and thus we can conclude that they are intentional.

Not chance. The appearance of chance. Not backgammon. The appearance of backgammon.

RIP Master Abbas

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