Cinema as reflection in ‘Through the Olive Trees’

Abbas Kiarostamin Productions/Courtesy

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The conclusion of a three-part saga by Abbas Kiarostami, “Through the Olive Trees” is a picturesque look into the entertainment industry of Iran through the lens of those passionate enough to tell the stories.

The premise of the film centers on an imagined movie set in 1994 Iran. As one man looking for love gets cast as the husband of a stubborn actress, the story follows the lives of the two actors as they navigate the production. Their relationship is a study of the beauty cinema can uncover within oneself.

A large portion of “Through the Olive Trees” is spent watching the magic of cinema unfold in the village. Between a crowded casting call and peeks at interactions between cast and crew while onset, the film allows viewers to feel involved in the creation of what they’re watching.

At times, it can be hard to decipher if particular scenes are a part of the movie or a part of the movie within the movie, but this dynamic makes the viewing experience all the more active and intriguing to those following along closely. The film reads like a documentary, even though it is created as a work of fiction.

This notion of real life as imagined cinema is particularly true about the character named Azim (Azim Aziz Nia), who struggles with his role due to the nerves that arise when he speaks to his on-screen female counterpart. Reveling in the lives of people from all different walks of life within the village — young and old, directors and actors — allows viewers a window into the experience of film production in Iran.

The film captures ordinary life beautifully, utilizing the human perspective through the camera. With shots seeming to appear from the perspective of the audience rather than of a particular character, viewers feel as though they’re right in the passenger’s seat of whomever’s car is driving the story forward.

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.