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Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-up

At first glance, Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-up (1990) can trick a viewer with its apparent simplicity and unpretentious story. In general, the atmosphere of the movie reminds us of Italian neorealism of De Sica and Rossellini, while at the same time it appears directed and authentic alike. It represents real life events the way they happened, or they are enacted by their real life protagonists — however, the manipulative context of an artistic form is always present, in this case, the film.

Nevertheless, as the case is with all great works of Italian neorealism, it would be difficult to find anything in connection with this movie that could be labelled simple. The fact that this movie treats three subjects characteristic of Kiarostami’s work assures him a special place in his opus. First, the subject of moral and justice connected to the Shiite version of Islam, imbued with elements of Zaratustra’s philosophy, and religion of ancient Iran — Persia. Second is the subject of self-referentiality of film, interweaving of reality and illusion that results in questioning their differences — what is, in the end, ’reality’ as such, and what is ’illusion’? — this theme lures any curious viewer, offering him a friendly challenge to try disentangle the issue. Finally, the third is the theme defined through an emotional prism that Kiarostami uses to observe the world through the camera lens — represented by a certain childish ’unspoilt roguishness’, actually, prankishness without any real malevolence behind the scenes, playfulness that does not intend to harm anyone or achieve anything at the expense of others.

These characteristics of Close-up are subjected to close analysis. According to Kiarostami, and his character Sabzian, art is the mirror of life; but what Kiarostami offers us here is a whole room of such mirrors, open and endless like multiple pictures that viewer would see in them: reflections, reflections of reflections, reflections of reflected reflections. This characteristic of the movie represents the final triumph of Kiarostami’s playful roguishness (it leaves us with no confidence in our own conclusions, while apparently offering them), and is also perhaps the real reason why this film is probably the richest and the most complex of all Kiarostami’s works.

Ante Škrabalo

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