The film follows the ways of Mr Badii on what is probably the last day of his life. We can see him drive around in his jeep, in a wasteland near Tehran. He stops from time to time, in order to ask people if they would like to do a little job for him. But even the money he eagerly offers does not help him to inspire their confidence: People are on their guards against this queer middle-aged man, who is obviously just looking for a homosexual pick-up. It takes a whole while until he finally reveals his secret: He is determined to commit suicide and has already dug a hole in the earth where he wants his body to be buried. The only thing that worries him now is that he needs somebody to fill up his grave. Now that we know what he is after our interest must inevitably concentrate on the reasons for his death wish. But, strangely enough, none explanation whatsoever is offered. Such a contravention of audience expectation has led to a massive rejection of the movie. Even renowned critics like Roger Ebert find it "excruciatingly boring" and rather helplessly ask themselves whether it wouldn't help to know more about Badii. But doesn't the mere fact that, for most of the movie's running time, we just see a "car driving in the wasteland" give us a clue about its signification and therefore the answer we are looking for? This wasteland is a barren landscape, its dusty vastness inspires nothing but sadness. Its dryness is the opposite of life; fertility seems impossible in such an arid and joyless desert. It is therefore the ideal background for any suicide attempt. As we do not get any psychological information about Badii and the reasons for his death wish are not revealed, we must look for other means of expression. The significance of a true work of art is not necessarily to be found in explicit words. If the main character does not speak we therefore must have a closer look at the landscape that surrounds him in order to find a hidden meaning. In the first part of the jeep's journey we can only notice its utter desolation. Then, when Badii has finally found a man that seems to be willing to cooperate, a surprising change takes place: Green trees and bushes emerge and, along with the now audible twittering of birds, give sign of life. At the same time the man in the car, who only accepted Badii's offer because of economic reasons, sings life's praises in order to make Badii discover not only "the taste of cherries" but also renounce his suicide plan. The portrayal of landscape seems to reflect the inner state of the characters: the desolate hopelessness of a suicide candidate is followed by an uncompromisingly positive attitude to life. And, significantly, this replacement is actually provoked by the picked-up man, as it was him who told Badii to take the detour. The same contrast is also present in the penultimate scene. We see Badii lying down in his grave, and then the screen is invaded by complete darkness. This must definitely be the end, we feel, Badii's death wish after all has triumphed. But once again Kiarostami wondrously succeeds in surprising us. We hear the noise of rain, it is flooding down upon the dry wasteland. And although the movie in the end does not offer a clear answer, there is at least a ray of hope: This rain may come just in time to instil new life into a dried up human soul.
Taste of Cherry
Taste of Cherry
An Iranian man drives his truck in search of someone who will quietly bury him under a cherry tree after he commits suicide.
August 12, 2020