Editor’s Note: The following review is part of our coverage of TIFF’s film series The Wind Will Carry Us: The Films of Abbas Kiarostami. For more information, visit tiff.net and follow TIFF on Twitter at @TIFF_NET.
Most of Abbas Kiarostami’s films are structured around canny narrative omissions. His movies work to intrigue, pull viewers in with the promise of a resolution, and then do something entirely different. He makes his narratives a mystery as a way to get us to notice other things, as a way to coerce us into paying attention to every small detail, lest it offer a clue. The details rarely do, because ultimately, unspooling the mystery isn’t the point. Rather, it’s all the things that draw our attention in the meantime that matter, the little grace notes and quiet observations that make up our lives that are Kiarostami’s bread and butter. He is among our most honest filmmakers because what interests him most is honest minutiae, the little ways we live our lives, and our tendency to spend most of them not noticing all the tiny, beautiful gestures and interactions that give them meaning.
This isn’t a film about how most of us live our lives. But maybe it should be. It’s more complex than that, and more rewarding.
The Wind Will Carry Us is so suffused with secrecy, so fully enigmatic, that it becomes somewhat difficult to discuss the film in terms of plot and narrative. Much of the film’s initial allure is the way all information about what is happening remains somewhat oblique, until the real focus of the film becomes obvious. The film focuses on Behzad (Behzad Dourani) an “engineer” who is probably actually a journalist assigned to cover an unusual funeral ceremony in a remote Kurdish village. Behzad travels with two assistants, whom we never see, and awaits the death of a woman, whom we also never see. Instead, the film focuses on Behzad as he waits for something to happen in a village that is all too accustomed with prolonged periods of downtime.
Behzad rushes to a hillside cemetery to take phone calls periodically, but most of the time, he just wanders the village, interacting with the women who populate it while the men are away working, learning about how they live their lives, and their perspectives on work, leisure, life, and everything in between. This is a patiently observational film, in ways that will either alienate or transfix viewers—you’ll either find yourself checking your watch periodically or entranced by everything that happens—but those in the former camp should see something of themselves in the impatient Behzad, who rushes so quickly to take each of his calls that he misses much of the beauty around him as he does so. This is the sort of film where the camera is trained for long periods on a tortoise walking across the frame, on a dung beetle struggling to haul away its bounty, on an apple rolling across the floor, and in the film’s final shot, on an image that is beautiful, heartbreaking, enigmatic, and pure.
Kiarostami is among our most honest filmmakers because what interests him most is honest minutiae, the little ways we live our lives, and our tendency to spend most of them not noticing all the tiny, beautiful gestures and interactions that give them meaning.
Most of what can be considered a narrative in the film, most of what would normally constitute the plot, is wholly uninteresting to Kiarostami. Rather, he seems transfixed by the people of Siah Dareh (every cast member save Behzad is an actual resident of the rural community), and by the little ways they live their lives. The Wind Will Carry Us may not sound like much when reduced to paper, but it’s a frequently mesmerizing work of cinematic yearning and exploration. Kiarostami wants to convince us all to think more, and, as importantly, to think differently. His films pretend to be puzzle boxes, when in fact their greatest prizes, their most rewarding revelations, lie in the tiny details that help us to understand who people are, how they live their lives, what drives them and what holds them back. This isn’t a film about how most of us live our lives. But maybe it should be. The Wind Will Carry Us isn’t an anti-technology screed nor is it a hagiography of rural life as some perfect simplicity to be achieved by all us blinkered city folks. It’s more complex than that, and more rewarding. It’s a film about the beauty and the possibility of the small moments, about the meanings hidden between the big events that ultimately make up the majority of our lives. It’s about how those matter, too, if only we could stop to notice them. We’re all pushing ourselves ceaselessly forward in our lives, all aiming at our next great success or further triumph. But the wind will carry us forward, whether we help it along or not. We’ll all flow down the river, and more pleasantly if we occasionally stop thrashing against the current and just let ourselves feel the world around us and all it has to offer.
The Wind Will Carry Us is a complex and rewarding film about life, beauty, and the possibility of the small moments.