The Wind Will Carry Us Review
Like so many of the director’s films, so different from the work of any other filmmaker in the world today, Abbas Kiarostami takes a unique approach to introducing narrative in The Wind Will Carry Us, one that seems even more simple, powerful and direct than conventional cinematic plot or character development and one more attuned to the natural rhythms of life – using movement to drive the film forward, and using the geometry of nature itself to give it meaning.
The film opens with a car travelling through a beautiful country landscape of winding mountain roads, gently undulating hills, flowing cornfields and rounded trees, the men in the car discussing the directions they have been given to get to a remote town. The view remains external, never feeling the need to cut to the men in the car and show them in their discussion as a conventional film might. There is no need to present this visual information to the viewer (and indeed you only ever really see one of the men over the course of the whole film), rather it’s the journey that is most important at this stage, and there’s also something to be said for leaving some things unclear, retaining an air of mystery that implicates the viewer into the situation, allowing them space to consider what is happening and where things are going – which is a car in motion, moving forward.
This continues with the arrival at the village of Siah Dareh, where the men are met by a young boy who leads them up a hillside path to the village built into the valley, a village whose curves reflect and follow the flow of the landscape itself in the shapes of the houses and the winding, dipping paths and courtyards. Even within this environment the idea of shape and motion can be detected in a falling apple and a rolling ball. This is far from a conventional opening to a film. Why the men have come to the village is still not clear – one of them we discover is Mr Behzad (Behzad Dorani), an engineer who for some reason is interested in an ailing old lady who he never sees or visits – but the viewer is held spellbound nonetheless. This is the Kiarostami method in its purest essence and at its most brilliant – the Iranian director having the extraordinary ability to look beyond the surface and conceptualise an entirely different way of depicting the world through the medium of film, one that is infinitely more simple in its approach from the traditional Hollywood model, but one that is also infinitely more expressive, capable of forging unspoken connections between people and the environment in which they live.
When you see the white village perched on the mountainside, gleaming in the sunlight then in a location that is known as Black Valley, you are getting more than just irony or conventional symbolism, but rather a consideration of how our impressions are formed by names as much as by how things look, and an exploration of what reality means in those terms. The impression also serves to illustrate the nature of what the film is about, which is no less than life and death itself, but approached through an always unconventional means. In the serving of a cup of tea and the exchange of a few simple words then, Kiarostami is capable of expressing with precision profound matters between men and women, about their roles, their attitudes, beliefs and character, as well as the disparity between modernity and tradition, between town and country and what is lost between them.
Just as much can also be expressed in the framing of the camera, in placements of characters, in movement – always movement – things that cannot be expressed through words alone, cannot be rationally explained or even described. As we have seen more recently from the director in Five, Kiarostami can point a camera at the sea shore and find the wonder of life expressed there, simply and unpretentiously. In The Wind Will Carry Us similarly through the images, through patterns and rhythms, through the repetition of movements, he creates an environment where the viewer can fully relate to the what they see on the screen, even if it is in a culture far from their own, seeing in it the world in all its beauty, complexity and simplicity.
Whether the hook to viewing the film is built around the mystery of the reason for the men’s visit to the village, their concern for an elderly lady and the unusual ceremony that is to take place there matters less then than what happens around these events. These might appear as nothing more than casual encounters, but in them is revealed the heart and soul of what it is that makes us human – all the trials and labours of life, hopes, ambitions, disappointments and ultimately acceptance of what is our fate. The Wind Will Carry Us covers everything from childbirth to death, the constant flux of movement, rhythms and patterns that express life, of paths to be followed, of rocks to hinder and direct the progress of streams and of fallen trees which may help us to cross them. Life as a journey, not a destination.
The Wind Will Carry Us is released in the UK by Artificial Eye as a two-disc set. The film is presented on a dual-layer disc, in PAL format, the extra features on a second dual-layer disc. The set is encoded for Region 2.
The video transfer for the film is as impressive as you would hope it might be. It’s anamorphically presented at its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the transfer progressively encoded. There are no significant marks on the print, the tone and clarity of the image is excellent, as is the colouration, and there is good detail visible. It tends towards being slightly soft, but that’s fine and preferable to the sharpness being artificially enhanced. Movement is stable, the wind flowing through the cornfields beautifully, and only an occasional faint flicker of brightness in one or two places. It’s not a perfect transfer, but there could be no serious complaint with this.
The audio track is straightforward Dolby Digital 2.0, in stereo focussed towards the centre, and it’s fine throughout. The tone is nice, with depth, clarity and good separation between dialogue and background noises.
English subtitles are in a clear white font and are optional. There are one or two small typos in the script but no other problems.
All of the extra features are included on Disc 2 of the set, and it’s an impressive collection. The Lesson in Cinema with Abbas Kiarostami (51:11) is effectively a visual commentary for film, Kiarostami talking in depth about the film’s themes, the symbolism, the location and the characters, with some screen specific discussion. He also gives wider views on the art of filmmaking, considering the limitations that cinema has imposed on itself and how he has tried to get around them. A Week With Abbas Kiarostami (1:29:53) is a long Making Of, but evidently not your typical EPK featurette. It’s interesting to see the different pace and rhythm adopted by the director, how much goes into rehearsals and setting up of shots, as well as how much is improvised, capturing the frustrations and the fortuitous moments. For anyone entranced by the village of Shahpourabad, this is a delightful opportunity to see more of it and its fascinating inhabitants, for anyone wanting to see the method of one of the greatest directors in the world, this is invaluable. The film’s Trailer (1:35) is also included.
Personally, I’m of the opinion that Abbas Kiarostami is the greatest living filmmaker we have in the world today, and The Wind Will Carry Us is an excellent example of just why that is, Kiarostami never falling back on conventional scripting, plotting or cinematic techniques and never settling for conventional received truths about human nature and behaviour. Nor does he attempt undisciplined experiments with the format, but instead remains in control and focussed on what he is trying to convey, finding a simple and poetic way to express much more than cinema is traditionally able to achieve. Supported by two extensive features on just how the director does this in The Wind Will Carry Us, but at the same time revealing nothing of the mystery of his genius, this is a superb two-disc edition and undoubtedly one of the best releases of the year.