close-up: reality and truth

b haridas


1.Simple but complex film: Close-up is a film about which lots of people have been writing ever since it was made in 1990. Every aspect of the film has been talked about, but once I started writing on the film, I found that it still remains like a magic hat with lots to pull out. There is only one way to describe this film - as a simple but complex film. Simple in its appearance and extremely complex when you go closer or up close. Out of all the reviews and articles I read about the film, one article title does most justice to Close-up. It described the film as 'a mirror facing a mirror'. In all sense the film is a mirror facing a mirror, which creates infinite reflections. This is an attempt to understand few aspects of the film, few of those reflections, which to me look most important in this point of time.

2.Three-dimensional space: By switching constantly between documentary and fiction, Close-up creates an extremely innovative space. If we look at the space in a fiction film, it is fictitious; the identities of the people in the screen are not real. They are characters and whatever happens in the film is happening in a space that is imaginary and we are seeing it as spectators. On the other hand if we look at the space in a documentary film, all events happen in a space which is real; the space in which we the audience are standing. In Close-up though, Kiarostami mixes these two spaces beautifully and creates a twilight space, which is between these two, as though he is searching for something in between the reality of documentary and imaginary of fiction- must be the truth. And it takes the film much forward. From a space equivalent to painting or photograph in a gallery to a space equivalent to installation art. Where the audience becomes part of the art and the positions the audience takes in this space change the art itself. This use of space effectively creates an ideal triangle between the director, the film and the audience.


"The reason why you like the character is because he is an artist. That's why he can make beautiful lies. And I like his lies better than the truth that the others have, because his lies reflect his inner reality better than the superficial truth that the other characters express.

I think it's always the case that through people's lies you can draw closer, you get a better understanding of them"

- Abbas Kiarostami

















3. Story: what is the story of Close-up? A man who pretends to be Makhmalbaf and visits / stays in a house; finally he gets arrested. After hearing the case, the court, the people whom he cheated and Makhmalbaf himself forgive him- simple enough. But if we analyze the film by all the elements present on the screen, the film does not appear as only Sabzian's story. The film is also the story of Kiarostami (a filmmaker) making a film about Sabzian. The Director of 'this' particular film happens to be Kiarostami himself. So if I need to describe the film, this is a film about Kiarostami, the director making a film about Kiarostami, a director making a film about Sabzian. Now if we agree that filmmakers tell stories, then this is how one can define this whole activity… 'Kiarostami is telling a story about Kiarostami telling a story about Sabzian who is telling a story that he is Makhmalbaf. If there are three kinds of stories then are all these stories real or fake? Or is only Sabzian's story fake? Not to forget all the scenes in the film apart from courtroom scenes are recreated and the characters acted as themselves.

4. Reality and Truth: Close-up is a film about a question on what is reality and what is truth? Reality is that Sabzian is not Makhmalbaf but the truth is that he is a man in suffering who is looking for hope by becoming someone else. Through the film Kiarostami is telling us that he is only interested in the truth. Not in reality. For example, if Kiarostami was interested in reality he wouldn't have recreated the things that happened before he got involved with the subject. Even if the last scene appears to be a documentary footage, it must have been planned. Then the question is, if Kiarostami was not interested in reality why did he mix documentary treatment with fiction? Because unfortunately every one else around is interested in reality.

5. The Rolling Can Shot: In this context let us see one possible interpretation of the rolling can shot. It will be very interesting to know that while Sabzian's arrest (one of the most important incident in the story) was going on in the house; we were being shown an insignificant can rolling down the road in real time. The obvious thing the camera should have done was to follow the policemen and shoot the arrest but Kiarostami's camera chose to stay out and shoot a rolling can. This is because he is not interested in the arrest and things like that; he is interested in something beyond that reality. On the other hand there is a journalist who is running around in panic for a tape recorder to record as much reality as possible.

6. Faulty mike: In the last scene when Sabzian meets Makhmalbaf the mike creates some problem and the voice keeps breaking. Please remember the mike worked well only once for us to hear Makhmalbaf say that 'I am tired of being myself.' It is hard to believe that the faulty mike is by default. I think it is very much by design. This is yet another device Kiarostami has created to let us hear only what he thinks is important and to tell us that in this so-called information age, all the images you see and all the sound you hear as the manifestation of reality is not important. It is the ultimate truth that lies within them is what one should hear and feel.



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