Phase9 Movies 2000-12

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Year: 2003
UK: BFI (Access)
Cast: Abbas Kiarostami, Ali Reza Riahi, Farhad Khodaverdi, Jafar Panahi, Seifollah Samadian, Peyman Yazdanian, Bahman Kiarostami
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Countries: Iran / France
Language: None
UK: 74 mins
UK Certificate: U contains no sex, violence or bad language
UK Release Date: 20 May 2005 (Limited Release - London, NFT)
UK Distributor


Abbas Kiarostami is internationally acknowledged as one of the most consistently innovative and visually talented film-makers in the world and FIVE can only add to that reputation. This richly poetic, radically minimalist film features five extended, apparently single-take sequences, shot on hand-held DV camera, along the shores of the Caspian Sea: a piece of driftwood is tossed and broken by the waves; people stroll along the promenade; a group of dogs gather by the water's edge; ducks noisily move across the frame from one side to the other; and a pool of water is shot at night with the sounds of storm and frogs croaking breaking the stillness.

Despite the lack of a story, the films are far more than just pretty pictures: assembled in order, they comprise a kind of abstract or emotional narrative arc, which moves evocatively from separation and solitude to community, from motion to rest, near-silence to sound and song, light to darkness and back to light again, ending on a note of rebirth and regeneration. "An entire world is revealed to us", Kiarostami says. "It's a work that approaches poetry, painting. It let me escape from the obligation of narration and of the slavery of mise en scene."

Also despite appearance, the episodes of FIVE are not documentary records. In reality Kiarostami actively influenced what might happen in front of his camera in various ways (tempting dogs and ducks with food, for example), and constructed the final segment from some 20 takes filmed over several months; the soundtrack was also 'composed', almost like a symphony of natural noise, during a four-month mixing process. FIVE is also emphatically not a video installation: it is digital cinema, primarily intended, like most other films, to be watched on a big screen in a darkened room. And it uses many of Kiarostami's usual methods - lies, repetition, long takes, darkness, ellipsis, off-screen sound, invisible cuts, even non-professional actors of various species - to encourage us to look again at the world, a little more patiently and closely, and consider it afresh, or as Kiarostami rather provocatively puts it, "to look at things that in themselves are not particularly worth looking at."

Its choreographed action and inaction, its sublimely beautiful response to the natural world and its demand of the audience for total surrender make FIVE profoundly contemplative and serene, giving audiences the opportunity to develop scenes further in their own heads and to embrace a different cinematic experience.

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