Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rapid Response: Like Someone In Love

There's almost too much to say about Abbas Kiarostami's latest masterpiece LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE, yet it feels so elusive, so deliriously complex that it almost defies any form of verbal analysis.  I'll do my best to give some quick, impromptu reactions  [Spoilers abound in the last few paragraghs.  You've been warned]:

-Like CERTIFIED COPY and CLOSE-UP before it, with LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE Kiarostami seems fascinated by role playing and the fluidity of identity.  The obvious play on identity comes with Takashi adopting the role of grandfather and caregiver to Akiko, and Akkio adopting the role of granddaughter and damsel-in-distress.  I love how neither really strives to appropriate either identity but how each merely falls into place.  They are both mistaken and assumed identities that are put onto them and then are conveniently accepted.  That the two seem to gain pleasure from taking on these roles speaks to an underlining and unspoken desire between them to fill these missing roles from their lives.  Takashi substitutes for the grandmother Akiko is painfully trying to avoid - he is the loving family member who knows the truth of her profession and yet still accepts her.  And Akiko substitutes for the progeny that never visits Takashi – she is the child in need of Takashi's care and affection (and, as is pointed out, she even looks like Takashi's daughter and granddaughter).

-Kiarostami's framing is typically masterful.  Each meticulously constructed shot reveals a myriad of meanings and subtleties.  Notice the many instances when characters who are speaking or objects that are referred to are never shown within the frame.  It deliberately distances and disorients us.  Take the first shot for example – a static establishing shot of a crowded bar while a person's voice is heard talking off screen.  We wonder who we are listening to and where the voice is coming from.  This sort of visual ellipsis in what we see makes us question the reality of framing and surfaces and what could be outside of our scope or comprehension.  Just as in this first shot, throughout the film we are constantly being asked to question what is in and what is outside the frame and more symbolically what is inside and outside our perception of truth and reality.  What is inside and outside our own frames when we look at the world or even ourselves?

Also notice the copious instances where characters are separated by gossamer and pellucid surfaces: the many instances of characters separated through glass (the car window, as in many Kiarostami films, serves as a metaphor for paradoxical alienation and connection - a glass prison that also moves us freely, almost securely, within the space of the outside world); Akiko's spatial separation from Noriaki as she sits behind him in Takashi's car; the neighbor's separation from Akiko through her snowy curtain (and her physical separation from the outside world, glanced only through the tiniest of windows); Takashi's separation from the naked Akiko, as her body is obfuscated in the reflection of a picture behind him; and in one of the best shots in the film, Akiko's separation from her grandmother (even while she is connected to her voice through her headphones) by the dividing strip in a car window (it's almost like this big dark line is ripping them asunder before our eyes).  There are many, many more shots like these, and they are all highly complex and near esoteric in their visual profundity (like great paintings, all of them).  Kiarostami is working on a whole other intellectual level than most current filmmakers here.  It's breathtaking.

-Akiko, as she admits herself, resembles so many people  So who is she?  I love how easily she blends into her variegate roles.  She looks like Takashi's granddaughter; she looks like the woman in the painting; her fiance says she looks like the call girl in the ad he's holding (she is, but he doesn't know it); and on the surface she looks like the normal college student she likely wishes she could simply be.  Is it possible that she is all of them?

-Like is the the imperative qualifying word in the title and the film.  Is everything we are seeing and experiencing like something else or the real thing?  Is there a real thing?  Kiarostami never tells, but only makes us rigorously ponder.

-What do we make of the ending?  In a final gloriously tense invasion scene, our conceptions of the film are literally shattered to pieces.  What seemed to be a simple but quietly profound piece on the nature of appearances and demarcations turns into an aggressive enigma, forcing us to confront all we have previously seen and perhaps taken for granted.  When Noriaki breaks the glass at end, what is he doing to us and the film itself?  Is he the harsh, dangerous world breaking down the feigned domesticity between Akiko and Takashi?  A cruel reminder that their relationship is only a form of play-acting and must be destroyed by a world hell-bent on establishing definitive truth?

Or is he a brave figure?  A pragmatist out to shatter the impersonal surfaces that block us from one another?  With all the surfaces and barriers isolating characters from one another and even the missed connections through turned off cellphones and phone calls being cut off - interaction and involvement always seems unyoked through a glass darkly in this ultra-modern environment.  In the final moment with the door to Takashi's apartment locked, has Noriaki finally become fed up with these makeshift barricades within modernity?  In one fell thrust, is he shattering the demarcations between everyone and everything and saying "no more"?

Or is he merely a impersonal force propelling itself at us, to shake us out of apathy and get our brains churning before all cuts to black?  The fact that we do not actually see anyone throw anything through the window is again another highly telling visual omission.  All we see is the glass shattering as Takashi falls to the ground.  The entire world might be crashing down for all we know.  What do we think about this?  Kiarostami's final curveball is hurled at us like a bone through a void.  Our eyes are open.

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