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'The Wind Will Carry Us'

Iranian 'Wind' invites viewer to fill in blanks

Saturday, April 07, 2001

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Once Sherlock Holmes traced the links in one of his amazing deductive chains, a confounded Dr. Watson always found it incredibly simple -- and wondered how he failed to spot the clues. Holmes told him, "You see, but you do not observe."

"The Wind Will Carry Us"
Rating: Not rated; does not contain sexual or violent material.

Starring: Behzad Dourani, Farzad Sohrabi.

Director: Abbas Kiarostami.

Critic's call:


The protagonist in the Iranian film "The Wind Will Carry Us," usually referred to as the Engineer, heads a camera crew, or so it appears. Screenwriter and director Abbas Kiarostami demands that his audiences deduce some things for themselves. The Engineer observes, but by film's end he discovers that he does not really see -- at least, not those things that are truly important.

Kiarostami won't let us see a lot of things that most filmmakers would show us as though it were second nature. We hear, but never get a glimpse of, the other members of the Engineer's crew. Nor do we ever view the old woman whose impending death (and an unusual ceremony that will follow) seems to have drawn them to the remote village of Siah Dareh. The town looks as if it were carved into the side of a cliff, its paths and houses laid out in a manner more suited to mountain goats than humans.

In one of the movie's recurring and often comical scenes, the Engineer (played by Behzad Dourani) answers his cell phone and has to drive to the cemetery at the top of a nearby hill so he can hear the person on the other end -- the backer of his expedition who is yet another person we don't get to see (just like the ditch-digger almost literally underfoot).

Kiarostami practices what he calls "unfinished cinema" -- movies that don't fill in all the blanks, don't tie all the loose ends together, don't claim to express a concrete truth. He wants each member of the audience to have enough room to find his or her own reality in the movie, an individual interpretation of the world Kiarostami presents.

Such vagueness will not please everyone. But "The Wind Will Carry Us," now at the Harris Theater, by allowing the most mundane elements of everyday life to unfold before us, eventually makes it possible to glimpse the remarkable. After a while, the events in the film seem to transcend time, as if these people and this place -- featuring landscapes the camera almost seems to caress -- have always been here.

The centerpiece of the film, in my mind, occurs when the Engineer tries to buy some milk. A young woman (we can see her torso but not her face) leads him into a dark basement. The camera focuses on her milking a cow as the Engineer recites the poem that gives the film its title, by Iranian writer Forough Farrokhzad.

In the earthy blackness, you may find that the words transport you. The wind will carry us. Read into it what you will. See and observe.

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