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Taste of Cherry (1997) Review: A Philosophical Journey!

Homayoun Ershadi as Mr. Badii in Taste of Cherry, featured in a captivating cover photo with a foggy atmosphere, pointing towards something.

“Think that you are farming, you are a farmer and I am manure that you are pouring at the foot of a tree.”

A line may have the power to sum up a movie, but it’s not uncommon for it to meet a lifetime. This was the first expression that crossed my mind when I learned that Kiarostami had left the earth. His film, Taste of Cherry, which I think is the closest to his approach to death, his relationship with life, and his existential pains, tells the story of a middle-aged man driving around Tehran in 1997.

Homayoun Ershadi as Mr. Badii in Taste of Cherry, portrayed in a contemplative state while driving.

The Plot Summary

You don’t question happiness. But if unhappiness coincides with even a small moment of your life, this is enough to bring the desire to meet death with your subconscious. Abbas Kiarostami, one of the leading names in experimental cinema, directly targets the audience with his approach to the phenomenon of suicide and mirrors where the individual stands in the conflict between life and death. We have to face the fact that ‘human’ is exposed to countless ‘evils’ in his daily life and throughout his life, both abstractly and concretely. With “Taste of Cherry”, Kiarostami slaps the audience with naive touches, which will last a long time.

The story of Mr. Badii, who is after someone who will bury him when he dies, turns into a chain of absurd events with plenty of irony. It enables the audience to make sociological conclusions about the living space of the Kurdish people through a Kurdish youth who is the first to get into the car. Kiarostami, by making use of psychology throughout the road story he tells, is fed by the concept of persuasion methods as well as suicide cases in this discipline.

The second person in the car is a theologian. After a hearty conversation about sin and reality, we begin to grasp Mr. Badii’s ultimate purpose. He takes him to the grave he dug and asks him to help him die. The answer to the naive theologian, who states in verses from the Qur’an that this is a sin, but is still unaware of what he is advocating, is impressive:

“Isn’t unhappiness a sin too?”

This question distracts the audience. This is an indication of how conditioned Mr. Badii is, and ultimately he cannot convince the theologian.

The third passenger Bagheri Bey, is a Turk who is trying to earn money in order to heal his sick child. His journey with Bagheri Bey is different from others and Kiarostami also feeds this transition with his cinematography. Through the bond that the main character establishes with the land, we grasp the point of his view of death again. For Mr. Badii, who changed his direction in a line towards living, the road now shifts to green and shades of green. Reflecting the mood of the character with his choice of location, Kiarostami makes the audience watch the routine flow of daily life against Mr. Badii’s passive stance towards life with the fixed camera he uses. Bagheri Bey, who tells something with his great life energy throughout the journey, puts forward the most impressive argument of the film with an anecdote, perhaps the simplest but with plenty of irony.

This paragraph also summarizes Mr. Badii’s situation:

“A Turk goes to see a doctor. He tells him: “When I touch my body with my finger, it hurts. When I touch my head, it hurts, my legs, it hurts, my belly, my hand, it hurts.” The doctor examines him and then tells him: “You’re body’s fine, but your finger’s broken!” My dear man, your mind is ill, but there’s nothing wrong with you. Change your outlook.”

Life and Death: A Philosophical Journey

Could everything be that simple? Could we be the ones making it difficult? How much do we catch the clues that life offers us? How well do we fit the equation? All of this starts to spin in the minds of the audience as well as the main character. At this point, we realize that Mr. Badii’s expectations, influenced by Bagheri Bey’s speeches, have changed. Now he is after not only being plunged into darkness, but also being awakened. He is ready to surrender to the slightest excuse to stop him. He takes his next step away from death and towards life. Bagheri Bey won’t be there even if he keeps hovering around him and trying to snatch that tiny reason from him. He already held Mr. Badii’s hand with what he told, his philosophy and his poetry. He leaves it up to himself to decide whether to continue living or not.

Homayoun Ershadi as Mr. Badii in Taste of Cherry, his car depicted from a distance in a desert environment. Minimalist shot.

Kiarostami depicts a unique desperation at this point. We witness that Mr. Badii was swept away by the beauty of the sunset and left himself to the taste of the moment. His contradictions to the situation he is in are quite familiar to all of us. After all, we are slaves to a life full of tides. Throughout the film, we see that a man who does not have a branch to hold on to, cannot taste the various people he encounters in his life. However, life suddenly becomes valuable like a berry. And the song starts again. Of course, there cannot be an end to the story of a man who is so in love with the earth and cannot fit into it. Taste of Cherry contains subtle nuances on the effort to maintain human life, which lies at the root of all social phenomena. It ignores the fact that a human can kill to survive. And it creates its own alternative and allegorical reality by referring to the beginning of human history, creation. In the finale, where the reality of the fiction is broken, the audience sees Kiarostomi. Kiarostami is once again the answer to all questions and gives the audience a great catharsis.

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Last modified: September 24, 2023