Why Taste of Cherry is my favourite film

The following review contains spoilers for Taste of Cherry.

It was February 28, 2021, when I finally decided to watch Abbas Kiarostami’s ‘Taste of Cherry’. I had heard quite a few things about the film up until then, all were incredibly positive praises of the film, some even calling it one of the best films ever made. After I finished watching it, I quickly understood why the reception and general consensus of the film are overwhelmingly positive. It also became one of my favourite films of all time. However, the film left a kind of impact on me which no other film had left. The discussion of the themes of suicide, life, death, optimism and other things, as well as the masterful visual portrayal of these ideas helped the film leave a profound impact on me. I found the film so interesting and well-made, I decided to immediately re-watch it a few days later. It somehow grew on me ever further the second time around. I had already fallen in love with the film the first time I saw it, but when I saw it for a second time, it felt like a different experience altogether. It made me appreciate the film even further.

This post is exactly about that- why I love this film so much, as well as how the film plays with the concept of context and how it conveys various ideas. This isn’t necessarily a detailed analysis of the film, but rather, it’s a review where I simply discuss everything that I love about the film.

Taste of Cherry contains several themes and ideas, most of which it subtly communicates through visuals. However, there isn’t a single idea in this film that is conveyed more subtly than that of context. Barely a few lines are uttered that talk about context. In fact, the film allows the audience to decode the very idea of context through visuals. Let us begin from the very beginning of the film. We see a man driving through a city. His goal, his location, his identity, his motive along with everything else is unclear at this point. As he keeps driving through the city, he encounters a few people. He looks at them for a while, after which he continues driving. He continues driving until he encounters two kids playing in a presumably out of order vehicle. He says hello to them, after which he continues driving. This goes on for a few more seconds until he encounters a worker. He has a conversation with the worker about whether he has any financial problems or not, after which the worker says that he doesn’t want to talk to him. A few seconds later, he encounters another worker, who he asks if he would like a job. The worker simply doesn’t respond and goes away. Immediately after this, the film cuts to the opening credits. After that, we see that he is still driving, in the hopes of finding someone to carry out some sort of job. This time, however, he actually does find a person. He is a young soldier, trying to get to his barracks. His name is unclear. The man has a conversation with him and convinces him to carry out this job. The man takes him to the location where the job is supposed to be done. This is when the picture becomes much clearer. It is revealed that the man is trying to commit suicide and that his name is Mr. Badii.

This is a great showcase of how the film plays with context. At first, the audience assumes that the man must be up to something nefarious, and that he might be trying to commit some sort of crime. But we find out that he is trying to commit suicide and that he is looking for someone to bury him. Here, the film shows that with additional context, out perception of everything changes. This theme of context, however, is interwoven with the other themes of the film, so I’ll talk about them now and I’ll get back to the theme of context later on.

What I would like to talk about now is an idea that takes over the film in the last act- changing your perspective, changing your outlook of the world. About an hour into the film, a man named Mr. Bagheri finally agrees to take the job that Mr. Badii offers. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t do everything in his power to sway Mr Badii away from the thought of suicide. In fact, they have a long conversation about life, hardships and changing your perspective of the world. Mr. Bagheri tries to convince him that death is not a solution to his problems, that life will get better and so on. He even tells him that he should change his outlook of the world, change the way the way he sees it. In my opinion, the highlight of this scene is when Mr. Bagheri talks about when he tried to kill himself in 1960. He said that at that point in life, he was plagued with multiple problems and that he was so fed up, he decided to kill himself. He had set off for the mulberry tree plantations, where he tried to hang himself from a rope. While trying to throw the rope up on the tree from down below, the rope didn’t catch hold. He tried multiple times but there was no avail. He then decided to climb the tree and firmly tie the rope to the branch. While tying it up, he felt soft mulberries under his hand. He ate one and it was delicious. He ate another one, and another. Soon after, he saw the sun rising from atop the mountains. In his own rightful words, “What scenery! What greenery!”. Then he saw school-going children coming by the plantations who asked him to shake the tree so that the berries may fall and that they could eat them as well. After that, he gathered some of those berries and went back home to his wife, who was still sleeping. When she woke up, even she ate the berries. He felt happy, he felt better. After hearing the story, Mr. Baddi asks him if everything somehow got better immediately after he ate the berries. Mr. Bagheri responded with, “No, it wasn’t at all like that, but I changed. After a while, it got better, but I had in fact changed. I felt better. I felt happy.”

Notice how Mr. Bagheri’s story is also about context. Things such as the berries, the beautiful scenery and so on had always existed in his life, from the moment he was born. But he had to change the context in which he viewed them. He had to change his outlook, his perception of them. That is why he felt better.

Later on, the film reincorporates this exact same motif. However, it does it in a much more subtle way, in a more visual way. When Mr. Bagheri tells him about changing his perspective of the world, trees and greenery become part of the locations, prior to which the film took place in a mostly barren land. Multiple new colours also became part of the colour palette. Before that point in the film, the film was mostly just drowned in shades of yellow, it had a dull colour palette. After that moment, however, new colours became part of the film, it became much more colourful.

I’ll talk about the visual aspects of the film later on. For now, I’ll be focusing on the way this film touches on the concept of context. As I said previously, the exploration of context is interwoven with the film’s exploration of other concepts. Let’s look at the film’s recurring location, the road to the cherry tree. Each time Mr. Badii drives to that location, there is an entirely different context of the same shot. We are seeing the same shot all four times that we visit that location along with Mr. Badii, but there is a different connotation along with it. The first time around, it’s ambiguous, you’d be forgiven for thinking that something horrific and unspeakable was going to take place at that moment. The second time around, the seminarist who is on the car along with him is trying to talk him out of suicide by telling him that pretty much all Islamic texts condemn suicide and say that killing yourself is no different from killing another person. The third time around, we don’t see Mr. Badii and Bagheri drive to that location, we only see them trying to get back, and that is when the conversation takes place. At the very end of the film, we revisit that location at night-time, where nothing can be seen due to the darkness.

If you really think about it, most of the themes are conveyed through the visuals. Sure, information regarding the characters is almost entirely delivered through dialogue, but the visuals convey the themes and ideas the film tackles, and at times, visual metaphors are used to put you in the Mr. Badii’s shoes and make you feel how and/or what he feels. For example, when Mr. Baddi stops at the construction site. When he reaches that location and gets out of his car, he sees a shadow of himself being enveloped by the falling earth and rubble, symbolising the fact that he can’t stop thinking about killing himself and that he sees that very thought, that very notion of suicide everywhere he goes. A few minutes earlier in the film, something similar happens. He stops at a place where he is greeted by a watchman. In front of that location, there is another construction site, and a vehicle dumps some earth and rubble on a large pile of earth and rubble. This shot, in my opinion anyways, symbolises the same thing.

However, clever shot composition is not the only thing this film has up it’s sleeve. It also cleverly uses production design. For the vast majority of the film, there are barely any unique colours to be seen. However, when Mr. Bagheri starts talking about changing your perspective, not only do the characters head down a different road (which also acts as a metaphor for changing your perspective), the road also has different features. Namely, greenery. Many trees and bushes become part of the set, which symbolises that he has, albeit for a while, started seeing the world differently. The film goes from having a dry and dull colour palette to a varied colour palette in a matter of moments.

The fact of the matter is, I could go on forever talking about the mastery and precision that went into making the film, about how it’s a technically perfect film, about how it is a really important film, but the reason I love this film is different. The reason I consider this an all-time favourite is because it left an impact on me, it’s a very personal film and that there is simply no other film like this that I have encountered. No other film made me feel the same emotions that this one did. Taste of Cherry will always have a special place in my heart because of this reason. It’s a film with the power to make you think positively, and it will change you, in one way or the other. I personally am not depressed nor suicidal, but I get negative thoughts frequently and I live in a terrible condition. Taste of Cherry shows that you should have a positive outlook. Similar to what Mr. Bagheri says, things won’t suddenly become better, but you will feel happier, you will feel better. I also find the main character relatable. We don’t know his backstory. In fact, we don’t know much about him, but this doesn’t mean that there is no character development involved. The ambiguity and lack of details actually makes the character more relatable, if anything. And really, by the end of the film, you are not supposed to find out if he did kill himself or not. You’re supposed to reflect on life, be positive and doubt suicide, much like Mr. Badii does, albeit for a while.

Ultimately, I love Taste of Cherry because of its message and the masterful and subtle ways in which it conveys the message. This is a fantastically made film which proves that you should never lose hope.

Thanks for reading till the end!

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Hanni

Hanni

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She/Her. Non binary. Interested in film and Marxism. I try to write original content about various subjects.