Through the Olive Trees (Zire darakhatan zeyton)

Through the Olive Trees

The only thing I want is your happiness.

It’s been a few months since my last Kiarostami, so I went back over my reviews for his two later films that made the list, to reacquaint myself with the director and his work. I’m glad I did; it prepared me a little better for the experience I was to have with Through the Olive Trees, Kiarostami’s pseudo-meta film. The film is actually the conclusion of an informal trilogy; the second film being a revisitation of the first, and this, the third film, being about the production of the second. The film isn’t about that, though the tribulations and problems one runs into while trying to shoot a film play a key role in the plot. The film is instead a study of the relationship between two of the actors on the film, and how it evolves and shifts as the film continues.

Once again, the film proper opens with a car driving along a winding road, a recurring motif with Kiarostami’s films and one we will revisit a lot. The car contains a woman who works for a film crew, who are having difficulty with the actor they’ve chosen for a particular scene. Opting to try another actor, they switch them out, only now the actress in the scene refuses to say her lines. Turns out the replacement actor and the actress know each other; he has asked her family to marry her multiple times. The film then follows the two as their tumultuous relationship continues, as well as the director of the film-within-the-film, as he tries to be an advisor to the young actor. The film feels a lot like a Kiarostami film, but the look is slightly different; the environment is far more green than his later works I’ve seen, which are primarily dusty and barren. Still, the dialogue and style of filmmaking is clearly Kiarostami; very contemplative, very still, and very character-centric.

The Book makes a big deal of this film’s ambiguous ending, that we don’t really know what has happened or what’s been told. I, on the other hand, didn’t find it such a big deal, mainly because it was patently obvious that the film was deliberately trying to be ambiguous, so I wasn’t inclined to throw my investment into the moment as much. Besides that, though, this was a thoroughly enjoyable film, albeit one that I feel I got pretty much everything out of it on the first go, so it won’t really have very much rewatchability for me. But, for what it was, it was nice, and the extra bits about the troubles of trying to make a film were just gravy for me. As much as I did like it, this is a pretty hard one to recommend; the only thing I could say to that end is that if you liked any of Kiarostami’s other works, this will be a nice continuation, and if you haven’t, this is as good a place as any to start.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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