The Wind Will Carry Us
1999, NR, 118 min. Directed by Abbas Kiarostami. Starring Behzad Dourani, Farzad Sohrabi.
REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Jan. 19, 2001
As he arrives at his modest guest quarters in Siah Dareh, a village nestled like a honeycomb into the sun-bleached hills of rural Iran, the Engineer (Dourani) shrugs, “Small things have their value, too.” So too with The Wind Will Carry Us, the latest film from writer-director Abbas Kiarostami. Like much of the neorealist filmmaking tradition globally popularized by Kiarostami (a perennial fave of the Austin Film Society) and countrymen like Dariush Mehrjui and Bahman Ghobadi, this spare, almost storyless film won't please every palate. It inches forward with the deliberate speed of a dung-rolling beetle -- who will appear late in the film as a metaphor for the dogged, relentlessly practical way of life the Engineer and his crew (who are only heard as disembodied, offscreen voices) find on their expedition to Kurdistan. They tell no one of their trip's purpose, but none of the villagers are particularly curious; they're matter-of-factly having children, harvesting strawberries, serving tea, and patiently obtaining fresh milk for their guests. The Engineer jokingly tells a schoolboy (Sohrabi, who has an expressive and natural presence on camera) that they're searching for buried treasure, but they seem to be waiting for a local woman, Mrs. Malek, to die so that they can photograph the mourning ceremony. In what is probably the closest thing the Iranian cinema has ever had to a conventional running joke, the Engineer is bedeviled by cell-phone problems, constantly scrambling to higher ground each time a mysterious Mrs. Godarzi calls from Tehran to check on his “progress.” But this is no fish-out-of-water farce, even if its impatient, city-slicker protagonist yields right-of-way to meandering goat herds and stray chickens with the cosmic exasperation of a vaudeville straight man. Rather, Kiarostami pays tribute to the quiet nobility of the villagers (amateur actors who appear as themselves) with an understated script and painterly visuals by cinematographer Mahmoud Kalari. A dramatic long shot shows the Engineer's truck being gradually absorbed into the landscape of radiant farmland; in the village, Kalari's camera lingers on the texture of the steep, labyrinthine stone walls and the shadows they cast, nuances that will surely be flattened to death on video. Though The Wind Will Carry Us chronicles the same struggling people seen last year in Ghobadi's bleak A Time for Drunken Horses, it's far less polemical and more visually polished, with an aesthetic that more closely resembles the artful compositions of formalist Andrei Tarkovsky than Ghobadi's jagged, semi-documentary naturalism. No doubt some viewers could find fault with the slack pacing, though it's hardly inappropriate for a film that's fundamentally about emerging from frustration and stasis into a state of grace.