By Afra Nariman
24 Frames (2017)
Directed by: Abbas Kiarostami
Stars: Nature, Life
An experimental film by Kiarostami. It is made up of a collection of 24 short 4.5 minute segments inspired by paintings and his own photographs.
The master of minimalist films made his last film the most minimalist of all. So much so, that this is not technically a film; or at least it isn’t what you would expect from a film. It’s more of an art project or endeavor of one of the greatest filmmakers our world has seen. His filmography consists of films without a distinct plot, but that instead focus on capturing a holistic view of reality and the natural state of existence; and ultimately communicating that view of reality to the audience, allowing us to find meaning in his films and often times emotionally connect with them. In 24 Frames, Kiarostami focuses only on the normal and the real: landscapes, buildings, natural movements, the aesthetic of life, animals and nature; all the elements that defined his style for decades.
In his own words, which are shown to introduce the film, here is his explanation of what the film consists of and why he was inspired to make it:
There is no story and no significant climactic peaks. Each frame depicts four-and-a-half minutes of realistic, often times completely uneventful but heart warming movements that illustrate how a landscape, setting or frame can change by the second. A painting or photograph only captures that split second that the artist depicts in their work. Although often times uneventful, what happens before and/or after the captured moment can be completely different than the picture we see. In 24 Frames, Kiarostami focuses on answering that question and realistically showing us what he imagined happened in those un-captured moments. Each 4.5 minute frame passes by without you noticing, because you are pulled into the frame.
Although this is as simple as almost any film, some of the frames leave you shocked, especially the frames depicting the brutal side of nature. Accompanying many of the frames is either mesmerizing music or the natural sounds of nature. Some are black and white and some are in color. Each frame is full of beautiful imagery and breathtaking aesthetics that speak to your senses in a unique way. 24 Frames observes the world as it is, without how we make it to be. We often times try to make film more exciting than real life; we alter reality. This film depicts reality as untouched by humans, and shows us what would happen whether or not we were there. The human being, the artist or photographer in this case, does not interfere or dictate how reality is ordered in a given moment. Nature orders itself. Kiarostami has always shown an interest in the attention to detail of what is happening around his characters, in nature. This film focuses almost exclusively on that aspect of his filmmaking style.
A few notable frames:
- The film opens with a painting of a snowed in village. At the bottom left of the screen, atop a hill, there are men tending to a fire, others leading dogs on a walk, and birds chirping and flying around. Below the hill, in the distance, we see people on ice doing various things. As the frame progresses, small aspects of the picture begin to move and change, illustrating the movements that were likely happening at the time that this painting represented.
- An aesthetically pleasing view of an open window that serves as the frame for an elegant tree blissfully blowing in the wind and the movements of a couple birds who come to perch on the window sill; light opera music dictating the effect of the frame.
- A snowy environment where a pack of wolves are seen feeding on an unidentifiable meal. Above them, atop a small, snowy hill, another wolf is seen sleeping under a beautiful tree with far reaching branches. The wolves eventually move around as they likely would have in reality.
- A stylized angle from inside what seems to be an abandoned structure, depicting a partial view of the street outside. In that small view of the street that we can see, a group of birds come to feed, disturbed by a frequently passing motorcyclist who causes the birds to disperse but soon regroup in the same spot, only to disperse yet again due to a car.
- A still photograph of a family overlooking the Eiffel Tower from a distance, people walking by behind them. Snow begins to fall. Then, a woman playing her guitar and singing a mesmerizingly beautiful song slowly enters into the picture. Her presence and her voice create an unparalleled aura and mood.
- A person slumped, asleep on a desk facing a huge window that frames a group of tall trees bending and blowing aimlessly in the wind at night. On the desk there is a computer screen. On it, is a final scene from a film, a kissing scene. The scene is stretched and slowed down to last 4.5 minutes. After giving us time to take in every detail of the frame, the song “Love Never Dies” begins to softly play in the background. Night progresses into early morning. The music crescendos. The movie on the computer screen ends and on the screen the words “The End” appear. Kiarsotami’s last film before passing comes to a finish.
24 Frames is a project that Kiarostami worked on in the last few years of his life. In 24, four-and-a-half minute frames, Kiarostami masterfully left us with a portrayal of the beauty of nature and the world as a whole. The final, 24th frame, where we see a person slumped, asleep at her desk, a movie playing on her computer and the song “Love Never Dies” orchestrating the frame is the last four and a half minutes of film that we have been given by Kiarostami. Nothing would have been more fitting to serve as his final farewell to cinema and the world that he so elegantly showed us through film for so many decades. The purpose of an artist is to showcase a certain view of the world to us. Through all of his films, that’s exactly what he did. In his final film, 24 Frames, he gave us a farewell that reminded us of what’s beautiful about our world and that highlighted and confirmed his mastery as an artist, leaving us with the simple words: Love Never Dies.
24 Frames is a meditation on existence, time, space, nature, and in a way, humanity, because it shows us the way in which we perceive the world around us, but focuses on illustrating the things we often ignore or don’t spend enough attention on to notice. This is a photography film, an example of the photographer as a filmmaker; the result of a collaboration between the mind of a photographer and the mind of a filmmaker — both of which existed in the mind of Abbas Kiarostami. 24 Frames, his final film, is his meditation on the natural elements of art and film that defined his career as an artist.