Through the Olive Trees (1994) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
18 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Third Remove
Krustallos10 May 2005
First thing: this is the third part in a trilogy. You really need to see "Where is the Friend's House" & "And Life Goes On" first if you want to fully understand this. In short, this is a film about a man making a film of his own journey in search of actors in a film he made earlier. Once you know that, it's not in the least slow or simple, it's a hall of mirrors, as another commentator put it. Frames within frames within frames.

Second thing: Jean-Luc Godard praised Kiarostami's early films, but then felt he'd become too influenced by the international art movie tradition. I don't know if this is a film he liked or disliked, but it sure has a lot of Godard's influence in it - from the director interviewing sundry characters through the conflation of documentary and fiction elements to the use of music, it's like Godard crossed with Satyajit Ray. Not that that's a bad thing.

I don't know if Kiarostami is as original or as striking as some maintain - in many ways this is "Day for Night" transplanted to the Iranian countryside - but it's very watchable, often very funny and the landscape is beautiful.

There also seems to be (in the Iranian context) a subversive subtext to these films. Tradition is held up as hidebound and stupid (the adults in "Where is the Friend's House", the grandmother in this film) while the young are seen improvising their own lives and creating hope in the face of catastrophe. I can't imagine that's too popular with the mullahs, and indeed it seems that Kiarostami has been unable to get a film released in Iran in a decade.

Well worth a view, and it may even inspire you to get out into the world with a digital video camera, but do see the other films (and probably also "Homework") first.
16 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Graceful heartfelt thanks for the empathy.
mrmumps29 April 2001
Found this film to easily engage my heart without burdening my head with too much technique. Funny, sad, the two sides of the ever encompassing cinema coin. An seemingly effortless exploration of the relationships of men and women, tradition and experience, the old and the somewhat new. And what a beautiful rhythmic last sequence, one of the best of all my moviegoing history.
11 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A bold statement of love and color, a poem
hooshi36_19993 September 2000
This epoch-making poem opens with a film crew trying to cast for a movie in a provincial village, in the aftermath of A DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKE which has claimed many, many lives. We then are shown that the remaining people are trying to rebuild their lives, picking up bits and pieces of the past, but with an eye to the future.example of these people are the boy and the girl who are selected to play the protagonists of the melodrama to be made. The crew's interest interest in these people is limited to their role and usefulness for director's vision of the film, and no more. But-and this is a crucial BUT-the boy and the girl have their own agenda, and don't care very much for the screenplay dictated by the director (for instance repeated takes of the tea-serving scene): The girl wants to wear colorful and jolly dress, and the boy wants to be able to love her. Eventually, the boy follws the girl into the magnificent ending shot of the expanse of the olive groves, and into the ubncertain but potentially hopeful future. Will life, love and color be able to vanquish darkness and death? Will the boy and the girl find the courage and and power to fire the crew, the director, the casting agent , down to the ticket-vendor and become subjects of their own life and destiny? ... This is to be continued.........
10 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
no need to see the first two films in the trilogy
meleftheriou-112 December 2005
I'd just like to disagree with those who suggest this film may not be accessible to people who have not seen the first two films in the trilogy. I haven't, but have not been as bewitched by a film since I saw Aggelopoulos' Travelling Players for the first time. My heart responded, the hairs on the back of my neck responded, my being responded. No matter if my brain wasn't fully au fait with what came before. Superb doesn't begin to cover it. How he captured these (non)performances from his actors is beyond me: perhaps, unfamiliar with the conventions of film-making, they were uniquely equipped to sidestep them.

23 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
meaning hidden in small gestures of daily life
gronvius22 August 2000
I saw the movie while on vacation in Sweden. Just clicking through TV channels, I stopped on this movie accidentally, initially not paying much attention to it. But the images started to attract me, finally they got hold of me. The realism of everyday life with some strange air of poetic aura was fascinating. The action just floats like a river, no big happenings but pictures are dense, close to skin, close to feelings. The people dreams pour out into daily life. The shaky balance between reality and a dream culminates in the last sequence and we hope for an answer, which is not disclosed but we are left to search it in our imagination and in our dreams evoked by this wonderful movie. Maybe longing for an answer is all what is possible.
23 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One of the five best foreign language movies of the 90's.
SkaVenger24 July 1999
This is the art movie in its essence. Every single minute of this movie is complexly detailed. It was considered by the critics a masterpiece but it could not be nominated for the Academy Awards in the 'Foreign Language Category' because of political problems between Iran and USA at the time (but in 99 'Children of Heaven' was nominated).

It was written by Abbas Kiarostama, who also wrote 'The White Balloon' (another great film) and 'Taste of Cherry' (not so good, although it won the Cannes Palm D'or).

This is a must see for any fan of artfilms. Simply fantastic, amazing and everything else, this movie is a 'sea of creativity'.
21 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Love behind the trees
N_Sgo27 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This film is a masterpiece, and can easily be seen and understood without the two previous films.

It revolves around a scene in which Hussein, a very low-class, insecure person, has to play the groom of Taheren, the girl whom he loves in real life. The fictive scene in which they are married, and Hussein's dreams and hopes of marrying her, mesh together and develop as the film goes on. It's all very moving, sensitive, even mesmerizing.

There is a constant reference to something or someone 'behind the trees,' perhaps a pointer at something beyond the film's scope and ability of description. In the end, the stubborn and proud Taheren also disappears behind the trees, and Hussein is left standing alone.

A very sensitive and moving film. Hussein's character, always dreaming and fantasizing about things that cannot be, is touching and endearing. The issue of fiction vs. reality, imagination vs. real life, is dealt with great wisdom and subtlety. One of Kiarostami's best.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Great example of a film inspired by Italian Neo-Realism
Indego-Productions8 December 2002
Through the Olive Trees is a great example of how neo-realistic techniques can show realism in film making. One personal criticism would be the music, but that is purely personal, and takes nothing away from the film. A masterpeice.
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Released in the West before Iranian film became fashionable.
threeJane2 May 2002
An Iranian construction worker/actor wants to marry a woman orphaned by the earthquake. But she is so much richer than she is. "So what?", he tells the director (of a film within the film). "If short men only married short women they would have short children and no-one would be able to reach the top of the cupboard."

A film packed with Kiarostami minutiae on class and gender (and of course literacy), including exquisite scenes about forgotten geraniums and missing socks.
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Koker Trilogy
tieman6410 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"I believe the films of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami are extraordinary. Words cannot relate my feelings." - Akira Kurosawa

Abbas Kiarostami directed "Where is the Friend's Home?" in 1987, the tale of an 8 year old boy who embarks on a quest to find his friend's house. The film took place in Koker, a village in northern Iran. The village was devastated three years later by the 1990 Manjil-Rudbar earthquake. This earthquake prompted Kiarostami's real-life return to Koker, a journey in which he attempted to locate the young stars of his 1987 film, all of whom were actual Koker residents. Kiarostami's 1992 film, "Life and Nothing More", reconstructs this journey. His 1994 film, "Through the Olive Trees", is partially about the making of "Life and Nothing More". This trilogy of films marks a larger shift in Kiarostami's filmography: a movement away from neorealism and toward postmodern self-reference.

Unlike most "natural disaster movies", "Life and Nothing More" quickly forgoes condescending gestures. Kiarostami has little time for either noble sufferers or canned sorrow. Instead he focuses on two characters, an unnamed film-maker (a stand-in for Kiarostami himself) and his young son, both of whom travel to Koker in a rickety yellow car. Landslides and traffic hamper their journey, but pretty soon they arrive in Koker. They then embark on a mission to locate the two young boys who appeared in the director's "Where is the Friend's House?" Both films offer similar journeys and tell tales of, not human beings conquering adversity (both quests fail; the boy never found his friend's house, and the film-makers never find the boys), but of characters persevering despite obstacles. Climbing is thus a repeated motif, Kiarostami treating us to long-shots of vehicles trekking up mountains and characters who either push unrelentingly onward or clamber out of rubble. Kiarostami's camera lingers on debris and collapsed concrete, Koker's residents like solitary weeds sprouting weakly upwards after a drought.

Later, a woman tells us she lost her home and family, but declines outside assistance. She will get by on her own. "If the dead could return," another haggard character tells us, "they would appreciate life more." This character, who plays himself playing himself, was cast in Kiarostami's previous film, where he was made to look "older and uglier". "That is not art," he states. "If you make an old man young and handsome, that's art!"

"Life and Nothing More" traces something similar; an attempt to tease out something handsome and dignified amidst perpetual calamity. But this reflexivity is then complicated. The man may have been made "uglier" on film, but, as he now reveals, the previous film lied by suggesting that he lives in a house rather than a simple tent. This tension – art which ennobles, searches for truths, but also lies and perverts – increasingly obsesses Kiarostami, as his films become less neorealist, more Goddardian and more reflexive. Indeed, increasingly his films don't ask us to enter worlds but instead obsessively revolve around characters who skirt around the edges of worlds, places and actions. They are spectators like us. The car in "Life and Nothing More" is itself a glorified camera mount, shielding both us and its occupants from the outside, even as we and our heroes try in vain to establish contact with the outside world. Kiarostami's films may be structured as games of searching, finding and looking, but are increasingly about the very postmodern problem of seeing, subjectivity and the limits of knowledge. He's, in a sense, the Iranian Atom Egoyan.

Postmodern cinema plays up self-reference, homage, pastiche, nihilistic self-absorption and a detachment from the social. But while Kiarostami's films increasingly call attention to themselves as representation, and are increasingly self-reflexive (they do not quote films outside of Kiarostami's filmography), they mostly lack the smug sense of self-conscious sophistication (and knowingness) which postmodernists trade in. Where central to postmodernism is the gap between the image of reality and what is reality – with the sign always victorious over essence – Kiarostami's work searches out that essence with the assumption that everything is capable of being at least somewhat true or containing truths.

The third film in what is often called "the Koker trilogy" (it is also three steps meta-removed from the original film), "Through the Olive Trees" opens with a movie director (Kiarostami's surrogate) conducting a casting call. He's looking for a female villager to play the leading role in his new film. He finally selects a woman called Tehereh. She will play a bride. Off-set Tehereh is similarly courted by a man, Hossein, who seeks to make her his bride. The film's great joke is that Hossein is also cast in the film within the film and that Tehereh refuses to speak to him as a co-star; he's poor, homeless and illiterate and Tehereh's parents disapprove of his marriage requests. What Kiarostami is concerned with, though, is the way comedy conceals tragedy, the way the fictional film conceals what it also unintentionally documents and how this tug-of-war itself results in Koker's rebuilding in the wake of the quake.

In all three films, Kiarostami's visuals are wonderfully minimalist, though this tone often gives way to either surreal moments or visual gags. Recall surreal shots of a man carrying a urinal, footpaths which zig-zag up hill-faces and the way matter-of-fact dialogue offered by various civilians clash with the earthquake's horrible aftermath.

Heavyweight film-makers like Godard, Kurosawa and Antonioni (Kiarostami's "Close Up" in many ways is influenced by Antonioni's "Blow Up") have all expressed a fondness for Kiarostami's films. Kiarostami's "Life and Nothing More" was retitled "And Life Goes On..." in the West, a less gloomy title which, in a way, sums up the kind of art-house sentimentality that is responsible for Kiarostami's popularity. Kiarostami's next feature was the audience polarising "Taste of Cherry".

8.5/10 – Worth two viewings.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Quite hard work despite interesting characters and places to round out the trilogy
bob the moo23 May 2005
Following a film he made a few years backs, a director returns to the area where it was shot to try and find the actors who he used. The area has been hit by a large earthquake and the film is designed to help the area as well as follow up on the people. Among the cast is a young man, Hossein, who has fallen for one of the other actors and seeks to marry her – but her grandmother refuses to consider any such offer; ironic perhaps, considering Hossein's character in the film is married to the very girl he loves in real life.

While making the sequel (or follow up) to "Where is the friend's house?" Abbas Kiarostami met a man who told him that he was married 5 days after the devastating earthquake (50,000 dead) that is the foundation for that film. A few years later Kiarostami decided to use this man and his story as the basis for this rather intriguing film within a film. The dual plots are interesting and work well in contrast to one another to fill out a plot that is not the easiest to get excited about or really engaged by. In this regard many viewers may feel bored or distant from the material as it doesn't quite build a story that well. The "film within a film" concept is interesting but it produces many scenes that are replayed over and over (different takes) without the repeats adding a great deal – in fact they seem to take away from the rhythm of the film more than give to it. As with other Kiarostami films, it is slow and requires work, but even if you are willing to put yourself into it, it is still not easy work.

The characters and place are interesting and it does feel like these are over and above the material itself. The film will be of greater interest to those who have seen the other films in the trilogy as the places and people have history to them, but they are still well enough done to avoid it being key to the film. The cast do pretty well throughout; Rezai steals the show with a good performance; Ladanian is totally absent and her performance will be hard (was hard!) for a Western audience to appreciate. Keshavarz does pretty well in the role of the director.

Overall this is not a film to come to unless you have seen at least one of the other two films (ideally both. It is watchable without this knowledge but even with it, it is hard work at times. The narrative is slow and not that important apparently and, although the characters and places are interesting, I did struggle to really get emotionally involved in the film. Interesting enough to be worth a look but don't expect too much from it.
7 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Turn the Page, to H Story
tedg5 November 2006
I've seen "Taste of Cherry" and "Ten" by this filmmaker. I found them exceptional in a few ways, but not rewarding experiences. I doubted the decisions of the filmmaker and that's poison to a shared life with one.

I still do. But this has changed my impression that he is incapable of making wise, effective choices.

Now I must see the other two in this "series."

Here's what you'll experience. The filmmaker is Iranian in situation, but French in intellect. That means his movies will be about movies, or will cast life as a movie with discrete references to films.

In this case we have a film being made. To elaborate on the distance between us and the film the first scene is a man introducing himself as the actor who plays the director.

The film within is cast and begins shooting. We see take after take, seemingly repeated endlessly. Each time, something goes wrong because reality intrudes. Slowly the film becomes about that reality instead of the film: the boy and girl playing a young married couple are from the nearby village and he has been courting her and has been turned down by her grandmother. (Her parents are dead.)

He has seen her only a few times, but is in love with her. He thinks he saw an expression once in her that reciprocates. Now in between those interminable takes he begs her to express her love. These take the form most purely of her reading, deliberately ignoring him, and he (an illiterate) telling to turn the page if you love me.

She demurs through the whole film until the end which has a very long slow scene. Very long, wordless. And she gives an answer that we impute so indirectly is it a far — literally far — observation. One amazing thing that occurs is our wonder that the filmmaker expects us to tolerate what he is doing. The other is that we do.

So I would recommend this.

But there's an issue that disturbs. This works for me because the society depicted is so alien, so unbelievable. The women here are women only in that they are allowed to have children. They are beings only in the most technical of senses. One wonders if such a place can really exist on the planet, or if it is a concoction or art to merely show the weakness of man.

I say this because I have a notion of symmetry in folding. I think successful art that represents itself has the same "semantic distance" on both sides. In other words, there is the same degree of abstraction between our real world and the foundation world of the film, and that is the same distance to the film (or art) within. I find this so prevalent that I pose it as a law of introspection.

So here we have a film that I assume was made for Iranian viewing, by viewers that would accept the world of women we see, wouldn't wonder at the third world infrastructure, would knowingly accept the dilemma of proud illiteracy. That places the world of the viewer very close to that of the movie within. Or does it? Is the Tehranian who sees art films more like me than the primitives we see here?

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
5 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I will reveal to you my love in the flower-decorated balcony
hello-8252820 June 2018
How wonderfully and simple a movie can be? proof is this movie. The man with his passions, his wants and his morals -conformist (per country) within the nature. A very beautiful and subtle poetic film.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Through the Olive Trees
jboothmillard31 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I found this Iranian film in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, it was an easy to remember title, but I didn't else about it, but critics gave it positive reviews, so I hoped it would be good, directed by Abbas Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry, The Wind Will Carry Us). Basically Hossein (Hossein Rezai) is a local stonemason who has become an actor, filming on location for the movie Zendegi Edame Darad (And Life Goes On). Outside the film set, Hossein makes a marriage proposal to his leading lady, a student named Tahereh (Tahereh Ladanian), she was orphaned by an earthquake. Hossein is poor and illiterate, because of this the girl's family are insulted by his proposal, and the girl avoids him as a result. Even during filming, she continues to evade him, she also seems to have trouble grasping the difference her role in the film and her real-life self. Things get more complicated as Hossein continues to pursue the affections of the young actress while the filming goes on, the Film Director (Mohamad Ali Keshavarz) learns about this and tries to advise him what to do. The girl manages to finish the scene while Hossein attempts to woo her, she departs, and Hossein runs after her. In the final scene, at a great distance, the girl finally gives an answer to Hossein, we are left with him running through a green field, and back through the olive trees, and we never know what the response is given by the girl. The documentary style of filming is interesting, the director pokes fun at the filmmaking process, with memorable take after take sequences of the lead actor going up and down a flight of stairs and messing up a line, this film blurs the lines between life and art, and it has some good sights of Iran's northlands, a reasonable drama. Worth watching!
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Memorable images and people, but film is lacking
clovis-519 April 2000
I fail to understand the praise that this film has received. The locations, the scenery, and the people are very interesting, and I suppose one should be grateful to be afforded a glimpse of a great and ancient nation. Most meaningful for me were the simple sequences in which non-actors spoke seemingly unscripted or improvised dialogue. But from a cinematic standpoint, I found sitting through this to be a numbing experience, a chore. And from a country with some of the most beautiful music on earth, the director could not even put a little bit of music in this film.
2 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
So boring, so undeservedly praised...
albyperez7 January 2003
I enjoy "art films" a lot, they usually may lack means but have great ideas behind, but this one was just poorly shot, had plenty of scenes in which nothing was happening (and then many others that were repeated again and again), it had no music, and then the last scene confirmed me that I had been completely cheated by an unskilled director (that tried to make his flaws as virtues) and by some snobbish critics.
4 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
How do we say poetry in Moviesh?
florinc17 January 2015
One can write prose, one can write poetry, one can write poetry inside prose... One makes movies. Period.

And what if it is more detailed? How can we say it? The people in this move have nothing left but their humanity, kindness and customs. Humanity is not enough, kindness is not enough. Customs are not helping. A combination of them, patience and belief in success to make one's life happy... Humans stripped to bare necessities, food, water, shelter, remain humane and kind and strive for happiness. The end shot ties all the ties tight, like a poem.

Pure poetry.
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Kiaroustami read my mind
tarek335821 December 2014
This cinema i am really so much obsessed with. Kiarostami can be called my mind reader. I started watching this cinema i thought this cinema's plot is something else. Half of the cinema i was searching what is the real plot? Inside it was vivid for me that i was hypnotized with Hossein's obsession though. However, i was feeling shy that this is a amateur thought of mine this movie contains something else or something big. I was little bit tensed with their love. In the mean time, Kiarostami started to read my mind. Finally,He started the conversation what i wanted. What inside embedded in me which i was asking to him he pointed it out. He tricked me half of the cinema. Then He won my mind. A non-actress and actor can influence like this to people i never had that idea. Robert Bresson could not do it what Kiarostami did. The cast do pretty well throughout.It is really amazing movie. I am feeling now refreshed and in fact have a deep feeling for Taherah. The last shot is the best master shot i have ever seen. After all that sequence gave me a good lesson. That cinema everywhere are not same. I will probably watch it again and again when i am in a mess state . This cinema is really so crucial for me. A great hard work of Kiarostami. Definitely deserves 10.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed