Shot in video and set entirely in a moving car the Iranian movie Ten is about a recently divorced woman cab driver (Mania Akbari) who takes various women friends, family and clients around Tehran. Told in ten parts the movie revolves around discussions that the woman has with her riders.
The movie opens with the woman and her bratty young son. Right from the start director Abbas Kiarostami sets up a major conflict between mother and son, which deals with the mother's recent divorce which has made the boy feel angry. It sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
As the movie goes on she picks up others who have their own troubles including a prostitute, a woman who has broken up with her boyfriend and an older woman who spends all her free time going to a nearby temple to pray. Other riders include her sister and later a couple friends who is having trouble with family life as well.
Ten feels completely natural and improvised, which to some degree it is. And since the whole thing is shot with a dashboard-video cam it doesn't feel directed either. Because of this it comes across like a documentary.
Taken as a whole it all ties together quite well as a sensitive picture of the social politics in contemporary Iran.
Kiarostami's decision to shoot it in the tight confines of a moving vehicle serves two purposes. One to present a claustrophobic element that you can't get outside or in a house. And two to show us the one place a woman can be herself and have important conversations among friends.
Ten, however, will try the patience of many people including some of those accustomed to the cinema of Abbas Kiarostami. The scenes with the woman's son in particular are hard to watch. Even if this is the point it succeeds all to well.
The second film - which is an extra - on the DVD is a documentary called 10 on Ten. Rather than being a standard how-to or behind-the-scenes film 10 on Ten is 83 minutes of Kiarostami driving around a mountainous rode talking about his filmmaking technique. This one is rigorous to watch as well but it is very interesting to hear Kiarostami talk about many subjects including camera work [or lack of it] and the role of the actor, the director, the script, setting, music and the viewers imagination. Kiarostami is a true philosopher and he has a lot to say about the medium of film and video.
The only drawback to 10 on Ten is that it has an English voice-over that - while not dubbed over Kiarostami - clearly adds an element that may not be too welcome by some viewers.