The Wind Will Carry Us,
a film by Abbas Kiarostami, brings viewers to a place far off the beaten track:
a small, rural village in Iran, with its houses nestled up to the hills, and
reached by a narrow, winding dirt road through the endless fields all around.
The film opens with a car rattling over this road, filled with a group of men
who are visiting the town for a specific (but unstated) purpose. The main
thrust of the film is what the protagonist sees, hears, and experiences, as he
wanders around the town. The problem is that nothing actually happens, or at
least nothing that is understandable to a viewer outside Iranian culture.
Well into the film, after the
protagonist has wandered around the town and chatted with various and sundry of
its inhabitants, and frantically rushed out of town several times to take calls
on his cell phone, it becomes reasonably apparent that he and his crew (whose
voices we hear, but whom we never see) want to film a local ceremony
surrounding the death of an old woman who lives in the town. This old woman,
however, stubbornly clings to life, leaving the protagonist to cool his heels
This extremely thin thread of
narrative is weakened further by the lack of context about what's going on.
He's there to film something... but what, exactly, is he there to film? Is this a hidden ritual (hence the
secrecy of the film crew's intentions) or just something that hasn't been
recorded before? Are these professionals, or amateurs? (They certainly don't
seem to be very organized or to have brought many supplies, and the protagonist
seems to treat his camera as an afterthought). What explains the striking
difference in clothing between the locals in their traditional clothing and the
protagonist in his Western-style shirt and jeans? What does the clothing tell
us about class or religious differences, and how does it influence what's going
on? Why do the locals call the protagonist "engineer"? I ended up
with many more questions than answers with regard to the film, and I suspect
that my appreciation of the film was significantly reduced by my lack of
context to pick up the cultural cues that would have (no doubt) answered many
of these questions.
The film does a good job of
setting the "hook" of interest, with the lush shots of the Iranian
scenery, the multileveled, interconnected adobe houses that form a maze-like
community, and the snippets of conversation with the inhabitants of the town.
But with the audience on the hook, the film never reels us in; we remain outside
the world of the story, our interest present but waning as the film rolls
slowly to the end of its running time.
The Wind Will Carry Us
is presented in a very attractive anamorphic widescreen transfer, presenting
the film it its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The main flaw of the transfer is
the presence of heavy edge enhancement, but the transfer is extremely good in
all other respects. The print is very clean, with essentially no noise
appearing in the image, even in striking one-color shots such as the blue sky
where any noise would be very obvious; the print is also free of scratches or
Colors are very nicely
represented here. The dominant tones in the film's color palette are brown,
gold, and tan, which come across with a warm, rich glow; black is also used
heavily and is appropriately dark. Other colors are used sparingly but for good
effect, and are vivid and attractive.
The Wind Will Carry Us
has optional English subtitles, which are some of the best I've seen lately.
Not only is it possible to view the film without subtitles if desired, but the
subtitles themselves are very clear, presented in white with black shadowing so
that they're readable on both dark and light backgrounds. The subtitles appear
to be well-written and are free of spelling or typographical errors.
The soundtrack for The Wind
Will Carry Us is a pleasant-sounding 2.0 Farsi track. For the most part,
the track focuses on the dialogue, which appears to be clear and distinct even
when several people are speaking at the same time. Music is subtly included as
an environmental effect, from characters playing music at various places in the
village. All in all, it's a gentle and generally pleasing soundtrack.
The DVD for The Wind Will
Carry Us has a trailer for the film itself (whose poor condition
demonstrates how much the film must have been cleaned up for the DVD transfer),
and several trailers for other New Yorker Video films: A Love Divided, Taboo,
Paragraph 175, and L.I.E.
The Wind Will Carry Us
is quite good at evoking a different culture, that of rural Iran; I enjoyed
watching it simply as a glimpse of a world that's strikingly different from
anywhere I've lived or visited. But as a story, it falls short because it fails
to move beyond setting and mood; it never lets provides an access into the
meaning of the film for viewers of a different culture. Given its limited
audience appeal but its good-quality transfer onto DVD, The Wind Will Carry
Us is an excellent rental choice for viewers interested in a glimpse into a
very different culture.