Kiarostami and contemplations on Nature

Abbas Kiarostami was Iran´s most intellectual contemporary filmmaker. His films have achieved great response throughout the world. Some of his feature films are acclaimed to be most artistically directed and excel a film technique in brilliance.

Kiaorstami´s films are often set in or contrasted by dramatic and intriguing natural landscapes. In what follows are some renditions of reflections and ponderings Kiarostami had about Nature, solitude and aspirations:

Photographing a landscape is for me, an invitation to comtemplate nature, a captivating scene at a particular moment which you feel summoned to contemplate , even if you are not a photographer and don´t even own a camera. For many years I would escape from the city and indeed would feel much better. Observing was a sedative for me. It has an almost Magical effect on me. They were short voyages without a precise end.

I suddenly find myself in the middle of the countryside, sometimes accompanied but more often alone. Contemplating the cloudy sky and the massive trunk of a tree under a magical light is difficult when one is alone. Not being able to feel the pleasure of seeing a magical landscape with someone else is a form of torture. A camera allows me to share these sensations with others. While photography is not necessarily an instigation to daydreamingi t can be.

Kiarostami´s sense of rupture between the man made dwellings and the natural can be seen in the following statement:

If dreaming consists of feeling the city and its constraints , if dreaming means going back to sources and therefore to nature, then photographing nature can be considered an instigation to dreaming.

Sharing is understod to be integral to the natural experience:

I had the desire to become one with Nature and she led the way. Yet I also wanted to share the Pleasant moments I had witnessed with others. I wanted to somehow eternalize those moments of passion and pain.

Kiarostami goes on to state that the locations for his films could be anywhere:

The point of departure is Tehran. The trajectory can go from 300 km to the north, near the Caspian sea, to Kurdistan , where I shoot "The wind will carry us ". Kurdistan is 700 km from Tehran, not very far from Iraqi border. I put a lot of time into my settings. Without exaggerating , sometimes I search for six months, may be even more. I don´t think that looking for a film set should take so much time, but walking in the nature is extremely pleasant. Contemplating landscapes under the pretext of looking for my decors leads me to taking the photographs I am looking for.

The idea of vision as a natural faculty that interacts with reality in an unorderly and spontaneous manner, is central for the film maker:

Before becoming a photographer, I did painting, but I never considered myself as a painter. Painting was a sort of therapy. This I found out by a 13 year -long intermittent attendance of the Fine Arts Faculty courses. But before getting into painting therapy. I was a " voyeur". By this I mean I lingered on details that were completely insignificant for others. My discovery of the camera has perhaps replaced the therapy of painting. Nature is a great painter which paints with and delivers styles and methods, sometimes classical and sometimes very abstract.

Sometimes it is sufficient for you to cut some of nature´s images, or enlarge them extremely , or hold them upside down, so as to no more see the tree in its natural form, and to no more look at colourful plain as fertile fields. Compositions of colours and forms are sometimes very abstract and independent from nature. Nature does paint, but not colourfully, it too, just as any great artist , paints whenever it feels like it.

Technicians create cameras lenses and negatives with different sensitivies and the one banished from painting, only press a button, sometimes at the right moment, but always with great pleasure. The work of an artist reflects his sentiments, contradictory or not. In fact, either we resemble our work or not at all. Even if I belong to the second category, it is apparent that my photographs are made from the substance of my dreams.

For me, the tree is a marvellous phenomenon and through my photographs, I have assigned myself the task of capturing a few
moments of this marvel. The form, the angle of the shot, and the light contribute to creating the material and objective aspect of the essence of the tree. But each time we look at photographs , the general and organized spirit of the tree is found within the existence of different trees and suggests a secret classification of trees.

In cinema, simple and immobile mise en scene is in fact like photography. When it involves something more complex with a camera that moves, it is still photography, but in movement. The viewfinder or even the frame formed by the fingers of both hands functions like a simple camera. Viewing the scene through a frame is a permanent exercise which, in the end, helps the mise en scene.

I will make a confession: I wish I was born with rectangular bars attached to my pupils so that I would have the habit of looking through this sacred frame.....

But pondering in more general terms on the relation between photography and filmmaking , one may perhaps say that photography is a necessity for the filmmaker , firstly because , in this way one learns to see and ones mind becomes filled with beautiful images which, if you want ,you can turn to or get rid of the inappropriate lack of beauty. The perception of disparate beauties is one of the most difficult specialities which can be achieved only by photography.

At the same time Kiarostami admits that the work method used in a film differs from that of photography.

With film, everything is prepared and organized ahead of time. Each shot though independent, also depends upon the shots that precede and follow it. The filmmaker already has an idea in his mind during the shooting, he endeavours to make the scene correspond to the vision he has imagined. This is not the case in photography, particularly landscape photography. Sometimes an isolated and abstract image upsets the continuity of the photographers mind and invites him to pause, make a choice and release the shutter. Nothing is forseeable in advance. In fact nature invites you to take pictures.

It is just as the appearance of a hunting prey in the distance. You stop, take up your gun and press the trigger. Now you may hit your target or miss it, it is same in the photography. Often you stand in front of your prey, you focus on the image you like, you move your camera to the left or to the right and adjust your lens back and forth, but eventually you are not pleased with what you see in theviewfinder. You drop it and go on your way. There have been many pictures which I have refrained from taking at the last moment. A good picture cries out its excellence at the moment it is taken.

Kiarostami is also candid about the imperfections that goes along with spontaneous capture of images:

Occasionally, you feel this dissatisfaction after the picture is printed. You tear it up and throw it in the thrashcan. For me there is no definite and clearcut criterian for releasing the shutter besides my satisfaction with the image, and I am seldom able to offer a logical reason for my approving a photograph and rejecting another.It is often this feeling that guides me If we put forth reasons to interprate and describe this feeling, we have only mentioned a value that can be interpreted and described. But the real reasons which make us ponder in the face of an image are not easily describable.... I think that this indescribability does not apply only in the case of images. It is true in the case of all phenomena, In the case of people
it is not without reason that we pass by some individuals with indifference, while we slow down, and even open our hearts , when meeting others

In the end Kiarostami had a multi faceted and still passionate view on the inspirational powers of Nature for a photographer.

- Prarthna Sharma