Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Throughout Abbas Kiarostami’s TASTE OF CHERRY (1997) our protagonist, an Iranian man searching for someone to bury him under a cherry tree after he takes his own life, shows us the world through his perspective (or lens) during what may be his final day. Just as the camera lens can be utilized to depict the world in a more positive or depressing manner, so can our own perception of our surroundings, missing the benefit of a director in control of the vision. Throughout his endeavor towards a peaceful burial, we’re never given a glimpse into our protagonist’s life beforehand or the events that possibly lead up to this culmination. What we do see is the drear of the world through his eyes. The dull, endless landscape of dunes and rubble, a dry lifeless zone void of vegetation. He’s extremely pragmatic considering his goals, but his viewpoint of the world he’s traversing allows us to see it the only way the chemicals within his brain allow him to: negatively. This is the depressive lens. Fixed to us, forcing us to fixate on how it portrays and reshapes our surroundings, but more importantly, warps how we interpret this information.
To me, Abbas Kiarostami is directly commenting on how depression is nothing but a lens, changing how we perceive the world. After our protagonist’s narrative concludes somewhat ambiguously, we close on a hyper-meta fourth wall break, showing us the film’s crew navigating the landscape where the rest of the film was set. But now, through this lens mounted to reality, the dunes which were once desolate and vacant are now rich with life and beautiful green vegetation, decorating the backdrop below a bright blue sky. The choice to end the film this way is simultaneously jarring and serene. We understand that our protagonist was mentally incapable of perceiving the beauty that surrounds him and within the people he encounters, each expressing humanistic emotions towards him, their concern overpowering their greed.
The theories on whether our protagonist chose whether or not to end his life are intriguing but only a small stroke of the painting. Kiarostami chose not to solidly end on either of these conclusions for a reason, opting for this alternative which is much more uplifting than either. Reminding us that we're simply watching a film, one that the events depicted are fictional despite their basis in reality, and that our own state of being is endlessly reliant upon the only lens through which we see our setting.
Taste of Cherry is an Iranian Persian language film originally released through Cannes Film Festival in May, 1997.
Filming at the Mouth, 2021