this film’s style reminds me of a cross between the godfather (because of the colors) and kiarostami’s work (because of the pace, texture and sound design). the opening shot is of a field of tall grasses and we know right away that this is going to be an organic film about earthy matters. the film’s visual style, particularly its earthy color scheme, reinforce this fact. at just shy of three hours the film is remarkably slim on plot. in an averagely paced simpsons episode there would likely be an equal amount of plot in the first seven minute act, as there is in this entire film. that’s both a testament to the quick storytelling of the simpsons, and the slow, plotless, drive of this film. but, as you know if you’ve read my reviews of the few iranian films i’ve seen, i’m not averse to a lack of plot. what drives the film is the characters and their interactions with the land and their neighbors. the film’s trailer says the film follows three families, the netflix synopsis says four families are the subject of the film, and allmovie.com says five families are followed. hmmm. i didn’t really keep track, and it sort of depends upon whether you count the newlyweds at the end of the film as a separate family. but i digress.
the film’s texture is amazing. kiarostami, and iranian cinema in general, have a similar texture and i think a lot of it is owed to the way they mix the sound. it’s as if the microphone is on the ground at all times. first, i should note that most of the sound work was looped in during post-production instead of being done while filming. every step in the film can be heard, and is usually high in the mix. to me this technique grants an extra layer of texture to the film. it makes the film all the more tactile and real when you can hear the dirt and rocks crunch under a person’s footsteps. since the film is about three/four/five families of farmers, this sound design makes perfect sense. if it were a victorian period piece, the same sound design would be misplaced.
somehow the film was able to completely draw me into the farmers’ way of thinking. about two hours through the film there is a single shot of a cluster of bees on a wall, rather than associating this image with danger (a typical response within a typical film), i immediately associated it with a honey treat. in this way the film was able to get me thinking of nature as useful and friendly, instead of an enemy which must be conquered. it was a subtle response, but a telling one.
besides the importance of nature, major themes addressed include the intertwined nature of life/death, the importance of community, and religion. it’s a good film, and even though not much actually happens in the usual sense, it addresses, directly and indirectly, all sorts of universal concerns. unlike “princess and the warrior,” this is a film that on paper probably looks rather unimpressive, but in its filmed state is actually quite a stunning (in its simplicity) piece of work.