Written and directed by Abbas Kiraostami
Screening at from 10th September
Iranian director Kiarostami (10 on Ten, The Wind Will Carry Us) has undoubtedly
created something of a subtle masterpiece where the strengths - although
not immediately apparent - eventually come to the fore and allay any initial
doubts about the film's accessibility. The film itself is rich in metaphors
and ideas, with the saying ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’
never more accurately applied. Indeed it would have been absurd to create
more than two main characters, with Juliette Binoche (The English Patient,
Trois Couleurs) and film debutant William Shimell collaborating artfully
in an excellent performance as their respective characters embark on an
Throughout, viewers are able to interpret the apparent themes by their
own deductions, and undoubtedly, this is a great part of the narrative's
unique nature. The subsequent rapport built with the audience borders
on the didactic, which can be assumed to mean that Kiarostami is conveying
to the audience the idea of life as a journey, and the breaking of social
norms and conventions (such as forming relationships, marriage and breeding)
is a choice towards which some humans can be inclined either through nature
or given circumstances.
Initially, this is established through alternating between shots in which
the camera remains stationary for extended periods of time. The opening
shot is of a desk with a microphone and a water bottle, the combination
of items often associated with lecturers and auditors. This association
is justified with the next shot of people sitting in a row of chairs,
waiting expectantly for the speaker. After the arrival of James Miller,
the speaker who is one of the two main characters, the initially smooth
flowing speech becomes somewhat disordered, with James' phone ringing
and the untimely arrival of a young boy (Adrian Moore - Friendship!, Lecture
21), son of the other main character - an unnamed woman.
Kiarostami's persistence with this visual style is very reminiscent of
the original ‘new wave’ French cinema, comparing favourably
to legendary auteurs such as Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, with
simplistic yet uncompromising camerawork successfully transferred to a
postmodern setting. It is in this instance that Kiarostami asserts from
the very first, themes relating to the life process spiralling out of
control through choice, luck and fate. The elements of roguishness and
hedonism are very much diluted by comparison to the old style of the French
new wave, yet the evident self interest of the characters can be seen
as selfish or healthy, hence the possibility of open interpretation.
In particular, the woman's struggle between her broken marriage and her
child leads to a conflict of values. She becomes increasingly fraught
throughout the timescale of the narrative (approximately eight hours),
as she eventually loses the battle of wills, succumbing to her feelings
and pursuing James as a love interest. Thus, as a mere human, she accepts
her natural tendency to rebel and resist society’s expectations
of her; given the escalating exchange of emotion as shown by the two co-stars,
the aforementioned norms and conventions seemingly border on the oppressive.
This setting is somewhat similar to society as represented by Norwegian
playwright Henrik Ibsen, in which the aforementioned expectations were
to be adhered to, lest gossip of a scandal be spread and the convention
breaker shamed. It is therefore certainly appropriate to label the film
as a dramatic piece with artistic value.
The very meaning of life and even existence of self is also effectively
questioned, as the extras and supporting characters become increasingly
older - from babies to children playing football, and then from celebrating
newlyweds to an elderly couple visiting a building marked ‘Pensione’.
This normal, inevitable life process can easily go hand in hand with boredom
and predictability, which is the reason for the main characters' unspoken,
inward indulgences and desires. Ultimately, Kiarostami's cinematographic
genius combines effectively with an evidently succinct and clear understanding
of life and human emotion, providing a wholly satisfying and fulfilling
viewing experience. To certain extents, the viewers may feel forced to
delve into and explore their inner selves, and it is only on very rare
occasions that the power of cinema is so truly and comprehensively realised.
As such, Certified Copy is well placed to become one of the classic greats
from a country almost unrivalled in its film culture.