Through the Olive Trees (1994)

Kiarostami closes his wondrous ‘Koker’ trilogy with an even more multi-layered, meta-cinematic experiment in the guise of a love story.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review #2,133

Dir. Abbas Kiarostami
1994 | Iran | Drama | 103 mins | 1.66:1 | Persian
Not rated – likely to be PG

Cast: Mohamad Ali Keshavarz, Farhad Kheradmand, Zarifeh Shiva
Plot: A depiction of the off-screen relationship between the actors who play the newlyweds in the film And Life Goes On (1992).
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes)
Source: MK2

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Meta-Cinema, Human Relationships
Narrative Style: Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
Spoilers: No

I’m finally done with the ‘Koker’ trilogy by Abbas Kiarostami, one of his most wondrous of cinematic creations. 

I think of this trio of films—Where Is the Friend’s House (1987), And Life Goes On (1992), Through the Olive Trees (1994)—as the House of God that Kiarostami built, and in a way the antithesis to Lars von Trier’s devilish if also thought-provoking The House That Jack Built (2018). 

It is difficult to talk about the plot in Olive Trees without making specific references to the two earlier films which may spoil those films, so I think the house metaphor could be the best way to go round it. 

In the first film, a boy has to return his friend’s homework that he had taken by mistake, travelling from house to house; in the second film, houses are turned into rubble after a powerful earthquake rocked the same region as a filmmaker and his son survey the devastation; and in this film, a fictional director attempts to shoot a few scenes (that recur repeatedly throughout with numerous ‘bad’ takes) featuring a young couple in a house that was seen in the second film. 

“It takes time to build a house.”

Taken together, the trilogy is Kiarostami’s way of expressing hope for a community riddled by loss, as the compassion and love for his characters (most of them non-actors) emanate through his brick-layering exploits. 

Olive Trees is the culmination of a multi-layered, meta-cinematic experiment in the guise of a love story, exploring not just the mystery and poetry of life (as his extreme wide shots of people or vehicles set against the undulating landscapes so beautifully capture), but also how both the form and content of cinema can be technically deconstructed—and then humanistically reconstructed—as a complex interlinking web of relationships, between real-life people, the ‘characters’ they play, and their connections with the natural geography that binds them.   

Grade: B-



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