Call for Book Reviewers and Bloggers

Abbas Kiarostami's 'Shirin'

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Tuesday, Jul 21, 2009
A delightful, experimental discovery from the master of Iranian cinema...
cover art

Shirin

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

(UK theatrical: 26 Jun 2009 (Limited); 2008)

Nothing is as strangely disconcerting, or one might add, as oddly fulfilling as stepping into a movie theatre, only to see another audience also here to watch a film, who are staring right back at you. The resulting experiment, Shirin is a wonderful, post-modern take on the cinema. As the movie unfolds, it becomes clear that we aren’t here to watch a story in the traditional sense, but to take a look at ourselves, and to consider the palpable reactions that the film theatre can induce in an audience.


The entire film exists solely as a series of close-ups of over 100 Iranian women, who are sitting in a cinema, engrossed in an adaptation of the folk story of Khosrow & Shirin (a mystical 12th century romance about female self sacrifice). As the picture unfolds, we begin to study the faces of the audience members. We observe, the twiddling of thumbs, the furrowing of brows, the tentative smiles, and most importantly the insurmountable tears. By simply watching these female reactions, I found myself forming my own assumptions about the characters and their back-stories. I wanted to know why each and every one of these women reacted in the way she did. Were this woman scorned by their husbands? Oppressed by the government’s militant regime? Forced into hapless marriages?


Moreover, Western cinemagoers will be pleased to find the beautiful Juliette Binoche staring back at them, during intermittent points on the screen. Why is she living in Iran, one might ask? And as such, the curious questions continue keeping us far from boredom. Understandably some viewers will struggle to find the purpose in the cinematic release of this piece, but arguably, the whole point of Shirin is that it is broadcast in a movie theatre. Certainly, the story of Khosrow and Shirin, which is rife with passionate trysts, would probably never be produced in a conservative nation like Iran. As such, this motion picture’s existence presents the story in a subversive manner, while at the same time relaying a completely unique theatrical experience. Subtle, but assured in its approach, watching Shirin is like watching a series of fragmented dreams—each and every one from a separate life that is as beautiful, as it is poignant.


Related Articles
25 Jun 2014
Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami doubles-down on familiar themes in this film, with varying results.
3 Dec 2013
As civil liberties were absorbed by the religious state and exacting codes of conduct were implemented with brutal force in Iran, Kiarostami used his canvas to show hope to his countrymen.
By Mark Olsen
14 Feb 2013
Abbas Kiarostami is one of the pillars of Iranian cinema, but because of the turbulent climate at home and his own artistic inquisitiveness, he has recently traveled outside Iran to make his films, in a manner he parallels to the recent vagabond works of Woody Allen.
12 Oct 2012
The Iranian director sets his latest film in Japan (in Japanese) with newcomers. The pervasive discomfort throughout manages to linger after the film ends, but the viewer is left to determine the conclusion.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements
Win a 15-CD Pack of Brazilian Music CDs from Six Degrees Records! in PopMatters Contests on LockerDome

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.