Taste Of Cherry, a 1997 Iranian film with the original title “Ta’m e guilass” is the first Iranian movie to win the ‘Palme d’Or’. The film is directed and produced by Abbas Kiarostami.
This simple yet intense movie is nothing but a pure work of art with all the realistic aspects, with an uncomplicated portrayal of the plot and presentation of the characters. It revolves around the protagonist named Badii, and his meander in his Range Rover along the city outskirts in search of a stranger who will help him to cover his own grave.
Badii is driving in search of a stranger with financial problems. He finds suitable strangers and drives them through barren hills and dreary construction sites along the dirt roads to the top of a hill, where he had dug himself a small grave under a tree. Badii offers a good wage of 200,000 Tomans. The job he wanted them to do is to return to the same place the next morning and call out his name “Badii” three times. If there is no reply, they are to shovel dirt into a hole where his corpse will be lying.
The first person he drives up the hill is a soldier boy he had given a lift to. Creeped out by Badii’s bizarre request, the boy runs away. Next, he finds a seminary student for the job, but he too turns Badii down after a futile attempt to dissuade Badii from committing suicide. Seminarian tries to preach Badii about how much of a sin it is to kill oneself. For which Badii replies “isn’t it a bigger sin to be sad? To hurt your friends and family? For that is what one does when they’re sad”. He tells them that he knows they can understand, that everyone can understand but no one will be able to feel what he feels. It is at times like this one might wonder if the movie is actually encouraging the idea of suicide.
The last person he meets is a taxidermist who works at a natural history museum. This man agrees to do the task because he needs the money for his sick child. At the same time, he makes Badii take the long route while dropping him at the museum. He uses this time to ask Badii little questions about the glories of nature like washing his face in cold stream of water and watching the sunset for the last time. As his last attempt at talking Badii out of this, he narrates a story. A little story that will be etched into the heart of the viewer for a very long time.
He narrates about the day he went to commit suicide and how a cherry saved him. How he just sat there eating those delicious mulberries, how he sat there and watched the little joys that nature offered. About how he left home to die and returned home with mulberries. It’s a story that won’t leave one’s mind easily. It gives us a great lesson. A lesson of how it is those little things that always matter. The little joys of life, that’s where happiness lies.
The movie ends with Badii laying in the grave staring at the darkness above. Whether he kills himself or not is left for the viewer’s imagination. That’s the beauty of this movie, what makes it a pure work of art. The movie is filled with allegory. Even the inconsequential scenes where Badii is staring at the stones tumbling down the hills of construction site make the viewer wonder if Badii is seeing himself in those stones, tumbling down helplessly along the hill called life.