Bearing little resemblance to the Western notion of a “movie,” Iran’s The Wind Will Carry Us takes the pieces of traditional narrative cinema and drains them of the artifice of plot, score and kinetic energy. Broken from these constraints and unhurried by suspense, the visual image remains static, changing the medium from a vehicle for entertainment to one of quiet contemplation. Adapting to the flow of Abbas Kiarostami’s work requires some sacrifice, mostly to one’s patience, but the effort isn’t fruitless, as the inert eye of the camera captures guileless, organic beauty and allows us to inculcate our own experience onto the stock-still canvas.
Though natural elegance occasionally infiltrates the visual landscape, seen mostly in the sway of golden fields of grain, Kiarostami’s primary interest is the encroachment of industrialization on the environment, particularly through the automobile, which he uses as a figurative vehicle for shifts in culture values. He even stages his dialogue-driven moments around cars, either shot from a distance or by a camera mounted to the dashboard, passively recording conversations held within or through a crack in the passenger window. It wouldn’t even be absurd to consider the lead’s sedan as a member of the cast and Kiarostami loves playing with this symbol, even personifying the car through the words of his main character (Behzad Dorani), who compares the radiator overheating to a person “giving up the ghost.”
Thematically, the gravity, or lack thereof, with which Behzad talks about life and death reflect a growing “intellectual” condescension to tradition. Temporarily stationed in a remote village on assignment, Behzad treats the locals as if they were antiquities, subjects to be photographed and documented like a species of insect. Though details are scant and provided with little explication, one can infer that Behzad’s trip relates to a dying villager, either as journalistic or financial endeavor. The bitter irony is that, as he waits for a stranger to die, he ignores his own family’s plea for his appearance at a relative’s funeral.
Unstirred by personal connection, unless in relation to his profession, Behzad’s lifeline is his cellular phone and it’s amusing to see him speed along dangerous mountain roads to find a peak with a stable signal. Kiarostami’s prescience picked up on the forthcoming dependence on portable electronics far before it was an epidemic, recognizing our weakness for convenience at the expense of privacy and intimacy. Watching Behzad on his daily hunt for reception gradually becomes less amusing the fourth or fifth time it happens, especially as the viewer relates their own obsessive drive for “connectivity” to his embarrassing charade.
There’s a telling moment, midway through the film, when the camera acts as a mirror for Behzad as he shaves, his face occupying the screen as if it were our own. His reflection is the face of all human callousness, embodying man’s disconnect from natural order in favor of superficial knowledge and cavalier pride. His redemption, in the film’s closing moments, comes with an acceptance of life’s limitations and death’s certainty, seen by Kiarostami’s camera without reaction or judgment, provoking the viewer to find their own truth and make their own penance.
The Wind Will Carry Us (New Yorker Films, 1999)
Written and Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
Photographed by Mahmoud Kalari