Dir:Abbas Kiarostami. Fr-Iran, 2003. 74mins
Havingtaken his own cinema lessons to heart (see Screen International's reviewof 10 On Ten), Abbas Kiarostamihere reaches the logical conclusion, going for the most esoteric, minimalistcinema imaginable, consisting of just five long static shots taken with adigital camera, no actors, no script, no story and no editing. Not even thedirector seems to be present for the occasion. And since traditional creditsare meaningless in his eyes, there is just a long list of names at the end ofthe film, without any mention of each one's contribution.
Crossingthe boundaries of conventional commercial cinema into film experimentation,recalling at times certain Warhol pieces (Empire State Building or Sleep),Kiarostami latest film, conceived as a tribute to his beloved Yasujiro Ozu,generates a sort of hypnotic, therapeutic fascination in its own way.
Thisis contemplative cinema in the fullest sense of the phrase; the kind that filmstudents will dote on, even if they will never dare apply it themselves, andfilm events are already queuing up for it. MK2's praiseworthy support ofdirectors they believe in - and Kiarostami is at the top of the list - mayappeal in this case to rarefied cinephiles only. But Five will still bearound, analysed, quoted and appreciated, long after fashionable hits of theday are gone and forgotten.
Evenfor such a short film as this, five shots would generally be consideredeconomical, an average of 15 minutes per shot, possible of course only with adigital camera. But that's nothing once you consider the nature of the shots,which are long in both senses of the word, time-wise and distance-wise.
Thefirst observes a piece of wood on the beach, the waves playing with andbreaking it off. The larger piece floats out of the frame, the smaller remainsin it. Boring stuff unless you start considering all the significantexistential symbols one can read into it, and there is plenty of time toconsider them and become part of a bigger experience.
Thesame thing could be said about the second take, a promenade along the beach,people walking in from one direction into the other, singles, couples or ingroups, sometimes in the frame, talk to each other though the sound of thewaves is too strong to hear anything they might say.
Thethird shot catches a couple of dogs fooling around on the beach, from thecamera's distance their groupings indicating that maybe something is going onbetween them.
Thetonality of colours indicates the weather is cold, autumnal and animperceptible, but distinct, change of exposure, gradually transforms anapparently realistic image into abstract one, in a manner that will be familiarto anyone who has attended one of Kiarostami's photo exhibitions.
Thefourth shot is once again on the beach. Ducks are tottering in their funny wayfrom the right to the left of the screen, then the other way around, quackingloudly, the sound of their feet flapping on the earth added to that of thewaves breaking on the shore in the background.
Theleast figurative take, the fifth, is mostly black, a pond at night, the moonreflecting in it through the clouds every once in a while, then the approachingstorm, rain, thunder and lightning. Once it is over, the dawn comes up. Thesound of sea waves, present in the first four takes, is replaced by off-screendogs, frogs, ducks and eventually crickets, some close by, others far way, allof them contributing to an elaborate concert of concrete music, a sound-effectversion of Beethoven's Pastorale.
Theonly actual music in the film, are short bridges coming at the fade-out end ofone take, accompanying the transition (sometimes white, sometimes black) anddissolving away as the next take fades in.
Needlessto say, this is the ultimate test of Kiarostami's theory that it is up to theaudience to contribute his half of the bargain and activate his imagination,for the film experience to be complete. What's more, he says, you do not haveto understand in order enjoy. Incidentally, there are two more takes, whichwere left out at the last moment. Interesting whether they will be included inthe DVD that MK2 intends to release.
Prodcos: MK2,Abbas Kiarostami
Int'l sales: MK2
Main collaborators: Abbas Kiarostami, Peyman Yazdanian, Ali-Reza Riahi, Bahman Kiarostami,Jaffar Panahi, Seyfollah Samadian