The Beauty of Simplicity in “Taste of Cherry” by Abbas Kiarostami
I’ve often noticed that we are not able to look at what we have in front of us, unless it’s inside a frame
— Abbas Kiarostami
Like many of Kiarostami’s works, his Palm d'Or winning film Taste Of Cherry (1997) shows the hidden beauty in the simplicity of life. In this film, we follow a lonely man named Mr. Badii, driving around looking for someone to help him with a high-paying job. This job turns out to be the burial of his body after he has committed suicide. During this quest, Mr. Badii talks to several people in his car as they drive over the winding roads of the mountains surrounding Tehran. In addition to being a filmmaker, Kiarostami is both a photographer and a poet. This combination of the arts is reflected in the way that Taste Of Cherry is created. Much of the story takes place in a car with the camera shifting between the driver and the passenger.
This ‘en Profil’ camera usage creates a certain distance between the main character who wants to end his life and the passengers who find it hard to participate in this task. These shots are interspersed with wide shots of the car driving on zigzagging mountain roads and internally focused shots of the protagonist who hopelessly looks at the road in front of him. A beautiful example of Kiarostami’s use of poetry is the comparison between these winding roads and life. For example, this occurs when an old man drives along with Mr. Badii and tells him to take a sudden turn that leads them to take a different route. This old man has known these roads for much longer than Mr. Badii, leading them on a longer but more beautiful road through nature. On this road, the old man tells of his own suffering and how the simple Taste of Cherries had changed his perspective on life.
This film's narrative structure is special because the long dialogues propel the plot and form some sort of therapy between the main character and the passengers of different ages. The car is, in fact, a “shell of solitude”¹ in which the main character resides. First, a young soldier drives along, who is eventually deterred by Mr. Badii’s plan and then runs away. Then Mr. Badii is with a seminarian who still has a lot to learn about faith. Finally, he meets an old wise painting teacher who starts talking from his heart about his life and experiences. Everything in this movie feels genuine and real because of the non-fictional way Kiarostami has created it. Kiarostami says the following about his filmmaking process:
“I do not have very complete scripts for my films, as I have already indicated. I have a general outline and a character in my mind, and I make no notes until I find the character in reality who’s in my mind. When I find that character, I try to spend time with him and get to know him very well … they are very much closer to real people than anything I could try to create.” ²
This dividing line between fiction and non-fiction, and the fact that Kiarostami is aware of this, becomes visible at the end of the film. The film shows the last day of the main character’s life because, in the evening, Mr. Badii decides to go to the mountains to end his life. However, this action is open to interpretation. As soon as he lies down in his self-dug hole, an internally focused shot (POV) of the full moon and the clouds that rush past can be seen. While the image slowly fades to black, the audio track increases in volume, and the wind, thunder, and rain can be heard over the black image. In an interview, Kiarostami explained that the off-screen sound in his films is like life, which also continues when you close your eyes. But the film does not end here. The sounds of thunderstorms turn into sounds of birds, and we get to see images of the green hills around the Alborz mountains during spring. These shots are filmed on VHS, unlike the rest of the film, which is shot on 35mm. Most notably, however, is Mr. Badii, who stands next to Kiarostami and the film crew. Writer Steve Erickson interprets this ending as follows in his review:
“It’s a distancing effect, distracting us from the issue of Badii’s suicide by reminding us that we’re watching a film, but it wouldn’t be particularly remarkable if it stopped there. It’s also a new beginning” (Erickson 54).
The barren and dusty landscape is revived when the grass grows back onto the mountains. The medium of cinema implies that Mr. Badii has died, but the same medium brings him back to life. Taste of Cherry thus shows that cinema can create life and that the beauty and joy from life are hidden in the simplest everyday experiences.
 Király, Hajnal. “Abbas Kiarostami and a New Wave of the Spectator.” Film and Media Studies, vol. 3, 2010, pp. 133–142.
 Cardullo, Bert. “The Fruitful Tree Bends.” The Canon: Brilliance without borders, vol VI, 2009, pp. 299–321.
Erickson, Steve. “Taste of Cherry by Abbas Kiarostami.” Film Quarterly, Vol. 52, №3, 1999, pp. 52–54