Through the Olive Trees – Abbas Kiarostami

Poetic at its very core, Kiarostami once again manages to convey the distinctions between fiction and reality in Through the Olive Trees. In fact, he goes much further this time creating what can only be described as a faux-documentary about a faux-documentary, thus sealing forever his ambitious will to raise and provoke the questions and discussions he ultimately deems most important. Not only does he focus on the blurring of the two opposites, but his film incorporates an overlying element of romance between two distinct individuals. Hossein and Tahereh play the couple in Life and Nothing More… the second film of three, where they are recently married husband and wife. In Through the Olive Trees, they play the people outside of their roles; however, Hossein has fallen for Tahereh. It’s something that sounds fairly convoluted but Kiarostami threads it together in a manner not seen before by another director.

Many Western viewers have claimed that they couldn’t understand the reproachfulness of the woman who seemingly blanks Hossein for the entirety of the film, but I found her more torn than distant to him. You can almost sense and feel her contemplating the collective positives and negatives as her hand wavers next to her script, the turning of a page indicative that she has feelings for this man. He, on the other hand, is very much besotted, an active personification of wearing your heart on your sleeve.

As usual it contains the hallmarks of any Kiarostami film: long natural shots, unprofessional actors and specific landmarks and imagery, such as the zigzagging path up the hill towards the end, a visual reminder that the film is concerned neither with complete chaos, or complete harmony but what lies betwixt the two. It’s also surprisingly easy to watch regardless of your immediate viewing habits, because the romantic link of Hossein and Tarereh allows the audience an alternate angle from which to view the film. Regardless of viewing habits though, this is a remarkable achievement from a even more remarkable director.

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