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"Taste of Cherry" in One Shot

Abbas Kiarostami's masterpiece "Taste of Cherry" encapsulated in one shot.
Joseph Kreitem
One Shot is a series that seeks to find an essence of cinema history in one single image of a movie. 
Halfway through Abbas Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry (1997), having been refused twice in his efforts to find and pay someone to bury him after he commits suicide, the forlorn Mr. Baddi stops at a busy quarry and watches his shadow cast over the falling earth. It’s a moment where he is faced with the seeming simplicity of the task (something he emphasizes to each of his candidates: “you can’t throw 20 spades of earth in that hole?”), but also one that sheds light on his own denial. This is not just about being buried, but about being buried by someone, the difference between the two held in the difference between earth that falls from a truck and earth that’s thrown from a hand. The denial is sharpened by the way that Baddi can never quite convince anyone that what he asks of them is merely work, least of all himself, his language shifting between comparisons of the burial to construction and farming whilst at the same time describing those he asks as "like a brother” or “like a son." This tension between his desire and inability to reduce his burial to a pure transaction brings to light some of the other conflicts that Baddi is held by—his rejection of others even as he is drawn to them and his wish to be both forgotten and remembered. Watching over his own entombed shadow, these conflicts mount into an impossible fantasy of self-sufficiency, as if he could stand over his own grave and bury himself. That this is impossible brings into focus one of the points of the film: we need each other, perhaps never more so than in our attempts to escape that need. Baddi runs up against this in his need for someone to mark his end for him and, whether he admits it or not, for someone to mourn him. Yet mourning is for the living, a process of acknowledging—one of Kiarostami’s favorite themes—that life goes on. That film lends itself to showing this seems in part the message of the infamous final scene. After a minute of darkness, we break out of the narrative to show Kiarostami and his crew wrapping the film, the sun is shining, soldiers go about their daily drills, and Baddi is left buried in the narrative along with the questions of his motivations and his final decision.

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ColumnsOne ShotAbbas KiarostamiQuick Reads
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