By Afra Nariman
Directed by: Abbas Kiarostami
Stars: Mania Akbari, Amin Maher
A female taxi driver spends her days driving her passengers around the city. Through conversations with an array of different personalities from different walks of life, she brings to light the plight of women in the country and explores the hardships surrounding love, heartbreak, family and divorce.
Abbas Kiarostami’s use of filming inside a car has never been exercised as much as it is in Ten. The style in which this film is shot is similar to that of a documentary style. It follows a taxi driver and showcases 10 conversations that she has with her passengers. Kiarostami’s knack of being able to blur the line between reality and fiction is apparent in many of his greatest films, this one included. When watching this film, it feels as if a camera has just been dropped inside the taxi and is recording the lives of real people, for us to watch, observe and learn from their discussions regarding family, love, heartbreak, faith and the feminist ideals that arise through it all.
The main story that appears and reappears throughout the 10 conversations, is the relationship between the driver and her young son who blames her for divorcing his father. The film examines the experience of the child who finds himself stuck in the middle of their separation. It has obviously negatively affected his psyche, causing him to have little patience, lash out at his mother and use harsh words when speaking to others. Through this story, we are given a window into a common reality for many families who have gone through the same thing.
Another theme that is enveloped throughout the film’s 10 vignettes, is the tug-of-war between faith (or fate) and reason. The idea of “God’s will” or “fate” is brought up in the conversations regarding the driver’s friend who is going through a break-up. The notion of doubt in relation to these concepts is also brought into the picture. By bringing these terms into the conversations, but not distinctively telling us which position is right, although highlighting that the doubt comes from a place of not being able to understand something that doesn’t have an explanation, Kiarostami gives us a question to ponder on our own. His goal was perhaps to bring to light the vitality of curiosity and of questioning blind faith, driving forward the simple idea of “thinking for yourself.”
On the note of “thinking for yourself,” the film also urges the importance of living for yourself, specifically in the feminist context. The overarching theme explored in Ten is the everlasting plight of women in society. Through an examination of the discussions regarding her own family struggles, the heartbreak that her friend is feeling and her late night talk with a young prostitute; it is evident that the film’s main objective was to bring to light the emphasis that women must put on their independence. The driver constantly pleads to her son to understand why she had to leave his father; he wanted her all for himself. She wanted to be happy and free, so she decided to make the decision to leave him in order to preserve those sentiments. Another part of the message, most apparent in her interactions with her friend who is dealing with heartbreak, is to “never put all your eggs in one basket.” In other words, don’t focus everything on one person, don’t cling onto a person and allow them to dictate your level of peace and happiness. This is reminiscent of many Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism… never allow yourself to rely on others for your own happiness. Peace and happiness come from within. Ten emphasizes the importance of living for yourself, especially for women who are often times dragged down by overbearing men. Women should not relinquish their control over their own freedom and happiness in order to please somebody who isn’t fair to you, or might even leave you eventually, as was the case for the driver’s friend. Frankly, nobody should rely on anybody for their own happiness. Independence, and the confidence that comes with it, is necessary to live a sustainably happy life.
Filmed in Kiarostami’s famed “in-the-car” style, Ten is a realistic meditation on political, social and family issues that exist everywhere and impact numerous people. From the surface, it’s simply a 10 part journey of a taxi driver who discusses personal matters with each of her passengers. When you examine the film a little further, it showcases an array of personalities from all different walks of life, who are impacted by societal plights, each bringing a different point of view to the conversations of the car-ride. It’s an ultimate example of Kiarostami’s minimalist filmmaking style. It doesn’t try too hard to do anything extra. It stays within the realm of what is real and natural. There is no dramatic ending, no final realization or explicit lesson. Ten strictly adheres to its purpose: it brings to light the issues that Kiarostami aimed to investigate, and leaves its audience pondering how to change their ways for the better.