The Wind Will Carry Us (1999)

This review was written as a summary for the Arts and Faith Top 100 Films List.

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The Wind Will Carry Us is often hailed as the masterpiece of Iran’s most celebrated filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami.

Apparently lost, some men who claim to be treasure hunters drive their jeep through rugged country in what seems like Middle Of Nowhere, Iran. It’s actually a Kurdish province, and a polite young boy guides the driver — a man called the Engineer (Behzad Dourani) — into the town of Siah Dareh.

In fact, the Engineer is a treasure hunter of sorts. He’s come to document the community’s rituals as they prepare for the death of a respected old woman. That is to say, he’s ready to exploit a family’s sufferings for the sake of a film.

You can probably see where this is going:  Kiarostami, is exploring his own artistic impulses and motivations even as he imagines an original fiction.

To get what he wants from the locals, the Engineer feigns compassion for the boy’s ailing grandmother, and for the family that is gathered around anticipating her death. But his real concern is for his project, and for his difficulty in getting good cell phone reception in this dusty, labyrinthine town.

Kiarostami film draws us into this extraordinary place, and into the conversations of the locals. We share their tea time at a tea bar. We learn about their rituals. There’s a hint of romance as the filmmaker shares sensual poetry with a pretty local girl. And there is some marvelous, understated comedy along the way, including a scene in which the Engineer chats with a voice from below ground — a ditch digger who is digging up the town cemetery for a questionable purpose.

But we also observe this filmmaker and his growing realization of detachment from his people and his homeland. The film is a healthy act of self-questioning. Kiarostami could have just made a documentary, and it would have been fascinating. But his narrative is a way of humbly questioning his own ethics and methods, and in doing so he asks us to consider why we might take this journey with him.

The title, then, becomes a multi-faceted banner. It’s a phrase from a poem about loneliness that the Engineer recites. But the “wind” might also be the light that channels this remote experience to our eyes, or the mysteries that connect us through space and time to such customs. Or it might just be the Engineer’s feeble cell phone signal, which reminds him how difficult it can be to transmit truth from one culture to another.

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