Film Review: Taste of Cherry

by Celeste Heiter, Nov 30, 2009 | Destinations: Iran
Taste of Cherry

Taste of Cherry

Taste of Cherry

When life's woes become unbearable for Badii, he decides to commit suicide, and takes to the streets of Tehran in search of a stranger who will agree to come at six a.m. to the hillside gravesite where he plans to do the deed, and for a generous fee, to cover him with twenty spadefuls of earth, or to help him out of the hole if his suicide is unsuccessful. Badii's search takes him farther and farther out of the city center, down a winding road on the outskirts of town near a cement quarry. But his quest becomes increasingly urgent as he approaches one man after another to perform the task of laying him to rest.

The first, a surly young man tells him to get lost. Next, a trash picker with questionable mental capacity hardly seems trustworthy for such an important responsibility. A young soldier on his way back to the barracks is skeptical of Badii's intentions and bolts from his truck at the first opportunity. A quarry security guard is unable to leave his post to fulfill Badii's request. And a young seminary student, who engages him in a lengthy debate on the ethics of committing suicide, refuses for moral reasons.

But Badii's persistence finally pays off when he meets Mr. Bagheri, an old taxidermist who needs the money to care for a sick child. And although Bagheri reluctantly agrees, he is adamant in his dedication to his pledge to show up at six a.m. as promised, but not without a sincere attempt to convince Badii to reconsider.

Written, directed and produced by Abbas Kiarostami, Taste of Cherry stars Homayon Ershadi as Badhi, and Abdolrahman Bagheri as the old taxidermist. The film received the Palme d'Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, and was described by New York Times film critic Stephen Holden as, "a remarkably rich celebration of human dignity and resilience." However, Taste of Cherry was not universally acclaimed, especially by Roger Ebert, who described it as, "such a lifeless drone that we experience it only as a movie."

With its barren setting, tedious pacing, sparse dialogue, and enigmatic ending, Taste of Cherry is not for everyone. And although it has obvious philosophical, ethical, and cultural merit, it may leave many viewers feeling something akin to The Emperor's New Clothes.