This latest from Iranian maestro, Abbas Kiarostami, is like complex, picturesque jig-saw puzzle with no edges.
Iranian maestro, Abbas Kiarostami, has said of his extraordinary new work, Like Someone in Love, that he has simply made a film without a beginning or an end. While that statement makes a lot of sense when considering the how film starts and the shockingly abrupt manner in which it climaxes, you feel like he’s probably just being falsely modest and there's actually much more to it than that which he'll never let us in on.
In this new, glossier phase of his career, Kiarostami has proven that he is a master of making unadorned realism appear mysteriously impressionistic and otherworldy. Set in Tokyo over a period of roughly 24 hours, the events, actions, characters and dialogue in Like Someone In Love are – when taken at face value – suspiciously unambiguous.
Yet, as with 2010’s Certified Copy, this is a film which demands you pore over its every surface detail in search of interlocking subtexts, internal references, repetitions, call-backs and visual/aural echoes. This is filmmaking as an extremely taxing game of join-the-dots.
Like Someone in Love is very much of a piece with Certified Copy, and their relationship could be said to mirror the likes of 1987‘s Where is the Friend’s House? and its 1992 follow-up, Life and Nothing More…. That is, it’s a film that exists on top of, rather than adjacent to its antecedent.
Where the basic deceit at the center of Certified Copy was whether the relationship we were seeing was genuine of fake, here Kiarostami reruns that motif ad infintum but without the luxury being explicit that there’s any funny business taking place, or indeed that we're supposed to see this as anything more than a semi-farcical, Tati-esque shaggy dog tale.
A young student, Akiko, (Rin Takanashi) sells her body behind her boyfriend’s back in order to pay her tuition fees. Called to the service of an elderly, eminent author and translator (Tadashi Okuno), she habitually adopts him as a grandfather figure – a role he willingly accepts and even protracts in order to save her from getting a Karate-powered beating from her over protective boyfriend.
Initially, the film feels like it could be a straight homage to the Japanese greats of the early twentieth century, particularly Mikio Naruse and Kenji Mizoguchi. The notion of a fallen woman being forced into prostitution in order to secure her place in society feels deeply rooted in the cinema of Japan's golden age. Yet, that’s probably – if at all – a small constituent of Kiarostami’s blueprint.
What’s it all about then? Who’s to say. Not me, especially after a single screening. This would require three of four run-throughs to even get close to unlocking its manifold mysteries. And even then, it’s a film that’s likely to get further away from you the more you think about it, rather than become more clear and readable.
Roleplaying and lying appear to be the two central concerns, as characters willingly adopt new personas depending on the company they’re keeping. Or, one other theory could be that it’s just a joke without a punchline.