Abbas Kiarostami fascinates me. He is a poet, humanitarian, and a master when it comes to blurring the line between art and reality. With his Palm D’or winning work, “Taste of Cherry”, the Iranian director challenges us to look at the forbidden subject of suicide in an Islamic state. It is a small independent film with a relatively straightforward plot, but the ideas it encompasses are as complex and big as life and death. Like many of his films, most of it takes place in a car on the road. It becomes a metaphor for the odyssey that the main character goes through.
Mr. Badii drives around in his dusty Range Rover searching for random strangers. He picks up the ones that seem to be going through financial difficulties and offers them a large sum of money for a simple task. He informs them that he has decided to commit suicide. All he needs is for them to bury him the morning after and to double check if he is indeed dead before doing so. In the many episodes, encounters and conversations he has with these strangers, he never reveals the reason he wants to kill himself. In fact, the reason is irrelevant; all we need to know is that the man is suffering.
Suicide is always a legitimate option in life, and many have chosen to take that path. No matter what anyone’s stance on the matter is, the living will never truly comprehend the extent of suffering the person has gone through to reach that point. “Taste of Cherry” doesn’t argue for or against the concept of suicide, but it does ask for a compassionate view on the desire to do so. The world has always been fixated that suicide is wrong, and indeed it may be, but what’s even worse is the suffering one has to endure to even contemplate the thought. What elevates this film to a whole new level of greatness, however, is when Kiarostami gently steers the wheel and the film becomes less about death and more about the simple pleasure of life itself.