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Arts and Artifacts in Movie

Technology, Aesthetics, Communication
Rivista fondata da †Giovanni Morelli

Direttore / Editor
Fabrizio Borin
Università Ca’ Foscari, Venezia

Comitato scientifico / Scientific Board

Carmelo Alberti · Università Ca’ Foscari, Venezia
Francesco Casetti · Università Cattolica, Milano
Roberto Cicutto · Producer Mikado Film
Antonio Costa · iuav, Venezia
†Fernaldo Di Giammatteo · Film critic
and Cinema historian
Roberto Perpignani · Film Editor
Benjamin Ross · Director, writer
Giorgio Tinazzi · Università di Padova
Riccardo Zipoli · Università Ca’ Foscari, Venezia

Coordinatore editoriale / Associate Editor

Gilberto Pizzamiglio
Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venezia

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Arts and Artifacts in Movie

Technology, Aesthetics, Communication
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11 · 2014

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La pubblicazione si avvale della collaborazione del Dipartimento
di Filosofia e Beni Culturali
della Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia.
Riccardo Zipoli, Still Images : Kiarostami’s Poetry and Cinema
Giorgio Mangini, Sulla recitazione nel cinema d’autore. Il caso Anne Wiazemsky 21
Daniele Zanello, Oltre l’esasperazione : il cinema della blaxploitation. Black Caesar e

l’appropriazione di un genere 47
Marina Pellanda, Conoscere guardando : i varchi della pellicola
Marco Dalla Gassa, Il migliore dei documentari impossibili. Chung Kuo - Cina di
Michelangelo Antonioni 69
Paolo Puppa, Cinema in forma di fiabe un po’ patologiche 2 91

Riccardo Zipoli

F or some years now I have been studying Abbas Kiarostami’s verse. My research began
when his first collection of poems, Hamrâh bâ bâd, was published. 1 I translated this col-
lection into Italian, and my translation, as far as I know, was the first available in a Western
language. 2 I translated also a second collection of Kiarostami’s poems, and that book includ-
ed the first publication of the original Persian texts (Gorg-i dar kamin). 3 The translations of
the two collections were accompanied by essays analyzing the poems from various points
of view : their content and form, their relation with the Persian poetic tradition, their af-

finities with the Japanese haiku, and their place in Kiarostami’s multifaceted artistic output
with a special focus on his photographic and film work.
Here I wish to concentrate on the associations between Kiarostami’s verse and his cin-
ema by reorganizing and examining more deeply some of the observations I have already
published together with the translation of Hamrâh bâ bâd. I will thus use only this collection
as a representative example of Kiarostami’s poetic activity and will focus my attention on
the films described there.
The basic feature contributing most to creating a common background for Kiarostami’s
verse and films is his keen interest in images. It is well-known that one of the most fascinat-
ing and striking traits of Kiarostami’s cinema is his great capacity to conceive and construct
images. What I have in mind here are not the moving images, typical of films, but still im-
ages in fixed frames. In fact, Kiarostami cadences his films by presenting a series of stunning
photographs. Preceded and followed by a sequence of other images, the possible interpre-
tations of each individual image are multiplied, thus endowing them with a much greater
evocative power. This is one of the reasons at times it is difficult to view Kiarostami’s films
straight through : I often wish to halt the reel to enjoy the beauty of each individual frame.

This love of the image is the driving force also found in Kiarostami’s other artistic activi-
ties, such as graphics, painting and photography. The same love of the image clearly runs
right through his poems which abound in examples of it. After having seen Kiarostami’s
images made with the pencil, paintbrush, camera and movie camera, we can in fact now
also enjoy his images made with the written word (as he has often pointed out, however, the
beginnings of his musings in verse go back much earlier than his debut as a filmmaker).
It is interesting to listen to what he says about the central role of the image in the inspira-
tion and craft of his art : « I believe that in a certain way the image is the mother of all the

arts. I must admit that I was attracted to cinema because mentally the image has always se-
duced me. Whether a photographic or a painted image, I have always experienced its effect
and that is what drove me to make films ». 4 He even goes so far as to suggest that the image

precedes the script : « Basically I believe the image is the origin of everything. Often I have

written a script beginning from a mental image. In other words, it was thanks to an image
fixed in my mind that I could elaborate and complete the text ». 5 The paradigmatic example

of this process is provided by the famous scene in the film Where is the friend’s home ? (Khâne-  

ye dust kojâ-st ?), when the main character, the boy, runs towards a tree at the top of a path

up a hill : the tree, path and hill are also found in the other two films in the Kuker trilogy

  Abbas Kiarostami, Hamrâh bâ bâd, Tehrân, 1378/2000.
  Abbas Kiarostami, Con il vento, translated by Riccardo Zipoli, Milan, 2001.
  Abbas Kiarostami, Un lupo in agguato, translated by R. Zipoli, Turin, 2003.
4 5
  « Cahiers du Cinéma », 493, Juillet-Août 1995, p. 86.

«aam · tac» · 11 · 2014

10 riccardo zipoli
– And life goes on… (Zendegi edâme dârad) and Through the olive trees (Zir-e deraktân-e zeytun).
Kiarostami comments : « I had this image in my mind for years, long before I made the film

Where is the friend’s home ? You can see it in my paintings and photographs at the time. It was

as if I was unconsciously attracted to the hill and the solitary tree. And we faithfully recon-
structed this image in the film : the hill, the path and the tree make up the scene in ques-

tion ». 1 According to Kiarostami, forming images is « a kind of a mental occupation typical


of all humankind ». 2 People thus appear to be continually engaged in cutting out fragments

of reality in their own mind at different levels and with varying results. Moreover, years later
the same images can recur in the mind as the outcome of an unchanged sensibility. Kiaros-
tami offers a personal example of this : « When I saw Where is the friend’s home ? again after

twenty years, I rediscovered some images from the past : a street, a dog, a child, an old man,  

the business about the bread. All of these images were still in my mind after twenty years.
This continuous repetition takes place in the unconscious ». 3 What Kiarostami has to say    

about the poster for the film Taste of cherry (Ta‘m-e gilâs) is emblematic in this sense : « I had    

taken the photo of the solitary tree a few years earlier. You could see the last glimmering of
the sun setting behind the hills. Then I filmed Taste of cherry not far from that place. Dur-
ing filming I saw the tree again and it seemed to be familiar. When I got home, I looked in
my archives and I found the photograph. It was from ten years earlier and was of the same
tree. I felt that it had some relationship with the theme of the film and so I chose it for the
poster of Taste of cherry ». 4 In line with this comment is a later statement, this time about the

film Through the olive trees : « I would never have imagined making my last film, Through the

olive trees, in a place where the wind blows strongly through the corn : this is precisely the  

image which ten years earlier I had painted and twenty years earlier I had photographed ». 5    

This last comment is even more significant for our purposes because the image in question
is also described in two poems of Hamrâh bâ bâd (168, 180), 6 and is thus a constant motif in  

Kiarostami’s artistic output :  

Sheaves of wheat
in the spring thunderstorm. 7  

Ripening stalks
in each other’s arms -
is it the wind they fear
or the sickle ? 8    

This scene is one of Kiarostami’s “mental images” and he has depicted it with four different
means of expression : photography, painting, film and poetry.

In short, Kiarostami’s artistic approach to the surrounding world seems mainly to be

through images. And in fact Kiarostami’s poems also have a very strong visual impact. Most
of his verse is characterized by a constant focus on one or more images which, just as in his
films, are often taken from various aspects of everyday life. These images are proposed as
the chosen vehicle for expressing thought and feeling, which are given very little discursive
expression in such direct concrete visual poetry. In this sense it could be argued that reflec-
tions and sentiments are almost always anticipated and filtered by the world of images. Any
tendency to introspection seems to shy away from the strength and evidence of scenes of
life and in the first instance the gaze is more important and precedes any outpourings of
the mind and heart.
1 2 3
  Ibidem.   Ibidem.   Ibidem.
  Abbas Kiarostami, Photographies, Photographs, Fotografie ..., Paris, 1999, p.15.
  « Cahiers du Cinéma », cit., p. 82.
  The numbers in brackets refer to the pages in Hamrâh bâ bâd, cit.
  The English translations of Kiarostami’s poems are taken from : Abbas Kiarostami, Walking with the wind, translated by

A. Karimi-Hakkak and M. Beard, Cambridge (Mass.), 2001 ; the translation of this poem is on p. 174.

Kiarostami, Walking with the wind, cit. p. 196.
still images: kiarostami ’ s poetry and cinema 11
This approach makes Kiarostami’s poems a fertile and congenial terrain for the author to
use a series of techniques and procedures re-evoking at various levels the world of cinema
in general and his films in particular. In specific terms, on reading his poems we immedi-
ately note some affinities of language with cinema, involving both the visual and sound
aspects. I am referring to the construction and linking up of images in one case and the type
of sound phenomena in the other.
In fact many descriptions in Kiarostami’s poems follow a logic typical of the visual lan-
guage of cinema. I have in mind those images illustrating an action as it unfolds, presuppos-
ing a dynamic “before” and “after” the instant being portrayed. The actions at the center
of the text appear in this way to be suspended, with the beginning and end of a possible
narrative left to the reader’s imagination. In these situations we seem to be looking at a still
taken out of a film without knowing the original context. Let us look, for example, at this
poem of Hamrâh bâ bâd (132) :  

In the dim light of the switchman’s lamp

the child
is drawing
while the father sleeps. 1  

This image enjoins the reader to wonder how this situation was reached and how it will
develop. The scene is thus not conceived as self-contained and complete, but as part of a
sequence and therefore potentially joined up to preceding and later scenes. We could think
of it as a kind of key “note” for a brief script which the author has deliberately left incom-
plete, and so it is up to the reader to finish it. There are many scenes of this kind in Hamrâh
bâ bâd and they may be considered a stylistic feature of the poems. This type of cinematic
suggestion is made even more plausible by the fact that at times Kiarostami seems to offer a
sequential logic amidst all the possible compositional arrangements of his poems. The most
striking example of this is supplied by the images of the spider and the spider’s web, scat-
tered through the collection (36, 40, 84, 90, 91, 123, 124, 146) and making up a sort of action
in progress which, although interspersed by other images, means the respective poems have
the effect of episodes assembled in sequence :  

Before sunrise -
the spider
already gone to work. 2  

The spider
and takes a moment’s break
to watch the sun rise. 3  

This time
the spider
brings together
the branches of the cherry and the mulberry. 4  

The spider
eyes its handiwork with satisfaction
between the cherry and the mulberry tree. 5  

The sun beams

its first golden rays
on the majestic mantle that is the spider’s web. 6  

The spider’s harvest

1 2
  Ivi, p. 138.   Ivi, p. 42.
3 4
 Ivi, p. 46.  Ivi, p. 90.
5 6
  Ivi, p. 96.   Ivi, p. 97.
12 riccardo zipoli
of two days
is left in ruins
by the old housekeeper’s broom. 1  

This time
the spider
to weave
on the silk drape. 2 

The more I think

the less I understand
the reason
for all this order and majesty
in the spider’s work. 3  

This distribution of episodes of a single story running through the collection reflects a
more general approach to verse writing whereby the texts are characterized by a series of
figures (snow, moon, wind, rain, sun, clouds, children, nuns, pregnant women, scarecrows,
dogs, spiders, cherry trees, and apples), settings (roads, rivers, villages, fields, and woods),
and topics (uncertainty of reality, relations between individual and community, the idea of
movement, the great themes of existence, such as work, birth, and death) which, thanks to
their recurrent presence, give the corpus a unitary aspect. The same or similar subjects can
come close together or more or less far apart and may be linked in various ways (repeti-
tion, analogy, variation, development, explanation, contrast, etc.). This composite intricate
mesh of repetitions and variations gives the impression that Hamrâh bâ bâd is a single long
text made up of 221 fragments (a total of 801 lines). The overall effect invites comparison
with the structure of a film, exploring several parallel themes (including flashbacks), whose
success obviously depends on the various scenes and individual frames. And as in the case
of the film, the set of poems must be enjoyed by reading straight through from the begin-
ning to the end, without pausing or skipping, in order to form an initial overall idea. To
continue with the film metaphor, a second and more careful interpretation of the corpus
requires a patient work of “slow replays” to break down the original “film” into “clips”,
i.e. groups sharing similar or at least convergent subjects (figures, settings, topics, etc.). In
short, the sequence of texts must first be read in its entirety and then studied, broken up and
reinterpreted in order to return again to a better more informed reading of the whole. A
true appreciation of the individual poems requires, in other words, various readings of the
corpus, both right through from the beginning to the end and in groups organized accord-
ing to different subjects. Only in this way are we able to place the various images in the right
setting of the macrotext (the corpus) and the individual microtexts (the uniform groups).
By doing so the whole picture takes on its effective depth beyond all initial appearances.
The impression of simplicity and facility that may be had on a cursory examination of the
poems is thus belied by proceeding with repeated readings when the complex mesh begins
to form and connects up all the elements in the long textual sequence. All of this brings to
mind the technique of linking up images in film editing.
Moving on to the second affinity of language between Kiarostami’s poetry and his cin-
ema, i.e. sound phenomena, it is easy to note the importance of sounds and noises in the
texts. In general the sounds and noises are persistent, isolated or combined, and accompany
scenes of solitude (17, 57, 62, 63, 66, 85, 88. 105, 106, 125, 153, 161, 162, 169, 179, 184, 185, 204,
208). The fact that several times the sounds and noises come from afar seems to reflect Ki-
arostami’s concept of sound in cinema : sound gives the image depth, guaranteeing a third

dimension to the otherwise two-dimensional filmed surfaces. Moreover, in the films, too,
continuous background sounds and noises often come from afar and underscore moments

1 2 3
  Ivi, p. 129.   Ivi, p. 130.   Ivi, p. 152.
still images: kiarostami ’ s poetry and cinema 13
of solitude : see for example, the animal noises in Where is the friend’s home ?, the din on the

road in And life goes on…, the noise of the car and the wind blowing in Taste of cherry, and
all of these sounds together (animals, road, car, wind) plus the radio voice in The wind will
carry us (Bâd mâ-râ khâhad bord). The care over sounds and noises thus creates a direct link
not only between Kiarostami’s poems and a structural feature of cinema in general, but also
between his poems and his special interest in this aspect of filming. One special case is the
echo found both in his poems (222) and films (Through the olive trees and The wind will carry
us) : it too comes from afar, but is a solipsistic phenomenon referring to a key concept for

Kiarostami, i.e. the difficulty in communicating.

Leaving aside the technical aspects to move on to content and narrative, it is easy to see
how the poems and films share a long series of settings, characters and themes.
In both cases one of the favorite settings is the rural world and there is a specific focus on
village life and scenes in open countryside. We note the persistent presence in both outputs
of two special places : the wood (in poems 22, 29, 77, 85, 109, 113, and various scenes in the

three films in the Kuker trilogy as well as in The wind will carry us) and the road (13, 17, 58,
63, 75, 103, 129, 130, 185, 187 ; there are many examples in the films : Roads is totally devoted

to this theme, but the most famous and emblematic is that of the zigzagging track in the
three films in the Kuker trilogy whose possible counterpart is the winding path described
in poem 63).
The sky is one of the basic settings in the poems (30, 43, 65, 156, 187, 194, 199) and is also
equally important in the films thanks to the presence of the sun and moon (there are ex-
amples in Taste of cherry) ; the moon and sun are also found in the poems (for the moon,

see poems 42, 45, 46, 59, 64, 68, 125, 163, 166, 186, 189, 194, 196, 199, 204, 205, 206, 212 ; for the  

sun, see poems 24, 36, 40, 46, 50, 69, 79, 81, 83, 91, 172). Associated elements are the dawn,
the sunset, with its red and yellow hues (the colors found in poem 216), and moonlight ; in  

Taste of cherry, enjoying these elements is considered enough to prevent suicide. A typical
feature of the sky is a high white trail left by an airplane described in a poem (156) and in a
short film, So I can (Man ham mitunam), as well as in three full-length films (Close-up, Taste of
cherry and The wind will carry us). Another typical presence in the sky are the clouds : they  

are described several times in the poems (16, 86, 92, 163, 189, 195, 204) and also appear in the
films (Through the olive trees and Taste of cherry).
Lastly, night is one of the most important temporal settings frequently found in the po-
ems (12, 18, 44, 45, 66, 100, 163, 169, 170, 171, 173, 186, 189, 200, 213, 217, 226), and is also crucial
in the films (see, for example, the scenes in the village of Poshte in Where is the friend’s home ?  

and the final episode in Taste of cherry).

Coming to the characters, 1 we immediately note that in both the poems and films Ki-

arostami takes a special interest in children, especially of school age. They are the subject of
various poems (25, 34, 73, 76, 87, 121, 125, 126, 129, 130, 132, 133, 134, 136, 139, 147, 162, 176, 200,
214, 215), but above all they are celebrated in the films. One particular scene is found in both
his poems and cinema : the boy featured in Where is the friend’s home, doing his homework in

the light of an oil lamp while his father sleeps and the pages of his exercise book are turned
over by the wind, also appears in two poems (25 and 132).
As regards the animals found in the poems and films, there are some, such as the dog (62,
66, 101, 103, 104, 115, 119, 148, 169, 185) and the cow (72, 75, 164, 182, 184) which, fairly obvious
because of the context being described, say little about Kiarostami’s specific sympathies
on animals. The dog, however, is the animal that marked his debut as a filmmaker (it was
a key character in the short film The bread and alley/Nân o kuche). There are also, however,
other less obvious animals which can be seen as more representative of the artist’s sensibil-
ity. These are smallish usually neglected animals (reflecting the filmmaker’s interest in the
  For an annotated list of the subjects of the poems in Kiarostami, Hamrâh bâ bâd, cit., see Riccardo Zipoli, Alcuni rep-
ertori lessicali tratti dal volume Con il vento di Abbas Kiarostami, « Annali di Ca’ Foscari », xli, 2002 (serie orientale 33), pp. 69-88.
14 riccardo zipoli
world of the weak and socially excluded) : the grasshopper described in one poem (28) is the

subject of some scenes in And life goes on… ; crows are found in various texts (29, 85, 99, 195,

196, 201) and in some shots of Taste of cherry ; the tortoise mentioned in three poems (35, 38,

43) is also seen in The wind will carry us ; the spider, the leading figure in the only real story of

Hamrâh bâ bâd (see above), is given an emblematic though not very prominent role in Close-
up : the “film in the film” that the fictitious Makhmalbâf wants to shoot is in fact entitled the

Spider’s house (Khâne-ye ‘ankabut).

On the subject of plants, trees in general are commonly found and are important in both
the poems and films, but two species feature more than others : the cherry (21, 22, 31, 84, 90,

107, 109, 174) and the mulberry (84, 90). These trees are associated in the texts by the spider’s
web (84, 90), and the goodness of their fruits appears to be a possible deterrent to suicide
in Taste of cherry. Among fruits, the apple plays the leading role and is the object of games
and falls in the poems (34, 118) and films (in Colors/Ranghâ and The wind will carry us ; in the

night scenes at Poshte in Where is the friend’s home ? there is talk of apples to be bought and

Of the various objects found in both texts and films, one seems to be particularly sig-
nificant – the exercise book mentioned in two poems (25, 132) is very similar to the one in
a scene in Where is the friend’s home ? Two basic foods also feature : bread is present in some

poems (73, 122) and is at the heart of the short The bread and alley (it also plays an important
role in Where is the friend’s home ?, and The wind will carry us) ; while milk is the focus of inter-

est in some texts (75, 182, 184) and various scenes in The wind will carry us.
As regards atmospheric agents, the wind recurs often in the poems (25, 53, 54, 57, 67, 82, 86,
131, 168, 185, 190, 192, 197, 199, 201, 204, 219) and in some key moments in Where is the friend’s
home ? and Through the olive trees.

Moving on to an analysis of themes, firstly we find the basic interest – typical of Kiaros-
tami’s verse and cinema – in the problematic everyday world of the humble and weak,
of which he becomes a spokesperson. These people are generally described both by the
poet and the filmmaker in relation to their communities through a series of broad related
themes, such as solitude contrasted with integration, incommunicability with solidarity,
rejection with acceptance, exclusion with belonging, the need for a “test” as the means of
reaching an end (the journey is seen in this way), and violence and injustice threatening
to bring down the more fragile. Another two important shared topics are maternity and
death or, rather, the subtle line separating life and death (the feeling of precariousness often
described in the films has various “natural” counterparts in the texts, including leaves and
Kiarostami’s complex treatment of the idea of movement has a special role in the the-
matic universe of his poetry. He focuses on two aspects of movement, i.e. its progress and
repetition (see, for example, the frequent descriptions of walks, flights, falling objects, gusts
of wind, etc) reflecting Kiarostami’s special preference for two filming techniques : on one

hand, the tracking shot and camera-car and, on the other, the repetition of specific scenes
and frames.
But let us look in more detail at another theme that is clearly a recurrent topos shared
by the poems and films. The theme in question may be called the “uncertainty of reality”
and is explored by Kiarostami in describing the ambiguities, expectations, contrasts, duplici-
ties and misunderstandings of the surrounding world. His cinema abounds with examples.
You only need to consider the problematic relationship between reality and fiction treated
in Close-up and Through the olive trees, the long wait in The wind will carry us, the twofold
possibilities described in Two solutions for one problem (Do râh-e hall barây-e yek mas’ale) and
Regularly or irregularly (Tartib yâ bedun-e tartib), the exchanged exercise books and surnames
in Where is the friend’s home ?, and the conflict between adults and children in The traveller

(Mosâfer) and Where is the friend’s home ?  

still images: kiarostami ’ s poetry and cinema 15
Also the poet’s gaze on reality is never unequivocal nor grounded in some kind of a basic
confidence. The poems reflect the problematic nature of existence without imposing any
pre-established definitive concepts : on reading them, you breathe an atmosphere informed

by an open-ended vision, at times riddled by doubt, and even willing to adopt contradictory
solutions. In other words, Kiarostami is not interested in theorizing and pushing truths in
his verse. Rather, he describes life’s various facets and nuances, leaving it to the reader to
make choices or to continue to doubt. This is not only an invitation to read but also to as-
sume responsibility as regards the situations illustrated. The same kind of basic attitude
characterizes much of Kiarostami’s films. The tendency to doubt and the propensity to
leave unresolved endings are therefore found in both contexts. On the subject of his cin-
ema, Kiarostami speaks of the empty spaces in a crossword left to be filled, or the detective
mysteries to be solved : see, for example, the open endings to And life goes on…, Through the

olive trees and Taste of cherry. At times he goes as far as to accept the plausibility of a kind of
balance between contradictory opposite elements (his fascination with this aspect – often
highlighted in his poems – can be summed up in the emblematic paradigm of the geograph-
ical setting of the village used to shoot The wind will carry us : the bright white village is

contrasted by the name of the place, Siyâh-darre – the Dark Valley). Typical of Kiarostami’s
art, this set of features establishes a potential interaction between the writer and reader on
one hand, and the filmmaker and viewer, on the other, producing in both cases the invita-
tion to reflect and be involved.
Let us now see how some of these problematics are approached in the texts. We should
remember that our interpretation of the verse is inevitably conditioned by Kiarostami’s
reflections in his films ; in fact some poems might be seen in a different way, if they were to

be interpreted without bearing in mind the background of the films.

We can begin by looking at how different possibilities for the same events are described :  

i.e. the way the same elements and/or same circumstances are subject to twofold or sepa-
rate descriptions, thus highlighting the plausibility of different outcomes. Here are some
examples : snow can descend from a white cloud (16) or a black cloud (92) ; violets can be

together (20) or separate (20) ; leaves can be blown away by the wind (51) or remain attached

to the branch (154) ; the moonlight can shine on wet (59) or snow-covered (60) plants ; the

dog can run away (66) or affectionately greet someone (119) ; the cloud round the moon can

be light (163) or dark (189) ; the feeling of love can grow (166) or wane (172) with the rising of

the moon or the sun ; the horse can tread on (181) or try to spare (183) the plants ; the wind

can be helpful (197) or cause damage (197) ; the light of the firefly can be lost (212) or be no-

ticed (213) at night, depending on whether the moon is out or not.

At times the twofold possibility does not concern the events themselves but the contrast-
ing behavior of two characters when confronted with the same reality. Examples include
the cleaning woman who destroys the spider’s web (123) made with such admirable effort
by the spider (90) and the mother who treats the doll with less care than that shown by her
daughter (134). The two cases illustrate different possibilities for the reader. In the first the
logic of both characters (the maid and the spider) is plausible and understandable (carrying
out their own work takes them to logically coherent opposing positions) and so it is difficult
for the reader to take sides ; while in the second case the two approaches invite different

judgements (the mother’s attitude is not very considerate) and it is easier for the reader to
take sides.
A similar picture emerges with the possibility of an alternative not described in the text
but evinced in the light of the behavior and customs dominating the codified world of
adults. In such cases the contrast is between the main character in the poem and the reader.
In other words it may happen that some behavior is admissible in the context but defies
“normal” logic : a bee tries to reach some flowers in a floral decoration on a carpet (81) ; a

snake crosses the road without looking (160) ; an ox is unable to understand the reason for

16 riccardo zipoli
his painful labors (164) ; and a new-born babe only knows the world of the cradle and has no

other cognition of space (215). In these cases the twofold approach to reality is generated by
the reader considering the event from the habitual and predictable point of view. In other
words, the vision of the surrounding world described in the poems contrasts with the usual
human notion.
There are also situations in which the twofold interpretation of an event works in the
opposite direction. In these cases the imagination, opposed by the kind of normality men-
tioned above, becomes the driving force for the alternative, transforming into a poetic se-
quence of cause and effect what according to normal logic would only be pure and simple
coincidence : we might thus surmise that a train has braked so as to avoid hitting a butterfly

sleeping on the rails (161) or that a bird sings to keep a child company until his mother ar-
rives (162).
Significantly in this context there is a case of attempted solidarity made emblematically
ambiguous : a blind man asks a boy the time but the episode in the poem (139), instead of

being an example of cooperation, may take on a different connotation when seen in rela-
tion to the previous poem (138) with the image of a watch stopped on the wrist of a blind
man. We might think that the author intended this to be the same blind man who in the
following poem asks the child the time (the nexus is neither declared nor self-evident, but
the scene seems to be in line with the poet’s sensibility and we would not be surprised to see
it in one of Kiarostami’s films). Seen in this light, the situation would give rise to confusion :  

the time read by the boy on the blind man’s stopped watch (assuming the boy was able to
read the time) would not be the right time and neither of the two would be able to grasp
or even correct the mistake : the blind man must trust the boy, but children are notoriously

oblivious to time. A request and an attempt to help would thus be transformed – according
to this interpretation – into a mistaken communication and perhaps would also be counter-
productive, creating a case in which two overlapping and contrasting situations are basically
mixed and confused.
From this point of view of twofold reality and/or twofold interpretation, a leading role
is played by the large number of antitheses characterizing Kiarostami’s verse. The elements
involved and their contrasts emphasize the various tendencies in the world, thus seen as a
composite set of opposites inevitably co-existing. The antitheses in the compositions con-
cern very varied fields. Among the most significant are times of day (day/night : 12) sizes

(small /big : 35), numbers (100/2 : 53), age (old/young : 63), position (outside/inside : 70), di-

mensions (long/low : 71), colors (black/white : 92), time (past/present : 137), seasons (spring/

autumn : 165), time periods (year/day : 188), and order (first/last : 219). To these we could

add a series of other more unusual antitheses : order/disorder (18), unity/division (20), si-

lence/noise (44), wakefulness/sleep (48), clearness/muddiness (52), strength/weakness (53),

work/rest (70), fall/flight (142), last leaf/bud (154), robustness/delicateness (183), artifact/
raw material (192), water/aridity (198), fresh water/salt water (202), and rotten fruit/good
fruit (211).
To the background of these twofold situations open to alternatives, Kiarostami shows
he has doubts about the outcome of events and often resorts to raising questions to in-
volve the reader in first person (13, 17, 21, 32, 46, 54, 153, 159, 190). In one series of poems, he
even acknowledges his own inability to understand certain phenomena which belong to the
usual context of the simple everyday world (144, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152). A leading
role in this uncertain and at times vague atmosphere is played by the scenes described as
they evolve but with no possible suggestion being made about their final outcome. They
evoke the idea of waiting and suspension, leaving the reader to choose to savor them in this
provisional condition or surmise how they might end (25, 26, 29, 31, 49, 58, 62, 63, 70, 71, 72,
76, 121, 161, 165, 167, 174, 187, 195, 196, 204, 222 ; some of these are less decipherable than the

others : 29, 49, 70, 71, 72, 121, 167).

still images: kiarostami ’ s poetry and cinema 17
In this framework there are some interesting notions on the theme of the simulacrum of
the person. Human identity in this case is doubled up giving rise to signs and appearances
which take over from people in flesh and bone, thus continuing to augment the ambiguous
aspects of reality : some adults’ presence is only detectable in footprints (13, 15) ; they walk in

company of their own shadows (171), dream about nightmarish figures (200), speak to their
own echo (222), while children turn their attention not to their own peers but to a scare-
crow made of tin (87), a rag doll (134) or a snowman (133). In this context the figure of the
scarecrow is of great importance and occurs as many as eight times. The scarecrow is remi-
niscent not only of man’s appearance and clothes (his hat is blown off : 67 ; and his clothes

are moved by the wind : 131) but also shares other human details and behavior : he sweats

in summer (80), feels lonely (127) and is the object of ungratefulness (140). Moreover, he is
found at the center of games played by children (87) and birds (128). With the scarecrow
the poet highlights the play of emulation and fiction but in one circumstance he reveals
that these mechanisms are blatantly contrived (Kiarostami similarly unmasks fiction in his
cinema) : the scarecrow is stripped of its “humanity” when it cannot avoid being irrigated

together with the field (111).

The theme of the simulacrum is also explored through two phenomena in the world of
nature : the reflection (47, 64, 206) and the mirage (227), which evoke the human aspects of

the echo and the shadow. It is worth noting that, in the case of the mirage, pursuing the fic-
titious element (the mirage) leads to reality (water). Likely elements are also introduced to
this kind of interplay between reality and fiction. Thus flowers embroidered on the carpet
fool a bee into trying to reach them by battering against glass (81), and this is no accident.
In fact glass neatly represents illusory communication (when fairly thick, it allows you to
see, but not hear as, for example, in one scene in the Traveller). Glass is also an obstacle in
another attempt to make contact with another “double” : a boy can only longingly see a

snowman through a window (133). Lastly, sometimes it is not the likely but the unlikely
which confuses the confines of reality and fiction, as in the above-mentioned cases of the
train seeming to brake to avoid hitting a butterfly sleeping on the rails (161) and the bird ap-
parently keeping a weeping child company with its singing (162).
This overall set of observations recalls some specific atmospheres in Kiarostami’s films,
revealing that the theme of the uncertainty of reality is one of the constant major motifs
running through both his verse and cinema.
Further inquiry along these lines would easily show up other similar affinities between
the two art forms. Here I have only provided some – to my mind – persuasive examples.
On the other hand, it might be useful to end by mentioning some of the more obvious
discrepancies between Kiarostami’s poems and his films so that we can form a more com-
plete overall picture and provide further points for discussion.
In terms of settings, snow and rain figure prominently in the poetry but are neglected in
the films : snow (which Kiarostami defines as beautiful but a creature too fragile and eva-

nescent for filming) is only seen rarely (in Solution/Râh-e hall and in the more recent Roads)
while a significant use of rain is as background noise towards the end of Taste of cherry.
Moreover, two figures frequently found in the poems – the nun and the scarecrow – are not
found in the films. Vice-versa there is no mention of cars in the poems, while they are the
central element in many crucial film scenes.
The films subtly and penetratingly portray specific aspects of Persian life, but this is not
true of the poems because they are much less bound to local features. This difference, obvi-
ously encouraged by the different potential of the two expressive means (poetry, according
to Kiarostami, cannot be bound to regional characteristics), should be borne in mind when
observing the common aspects I have described.
Moreover, Kiarostami’s cinema focuses on human beings as protagonists, whereas in the
poems there is a tendency to consider every element in the surrounding world at the same
18 riccardo zipoli
level, without specific distinctions between the human, animal, vegetable and inanimate,
which often become equally important figures in a verse scene.
Moving on to the narrative aspect, we immediately note that the verse does not share the
same complex architecture organized on various levels as often found in Kiarostami’s cin-
ematic language. In this sense Kiarostami’s writings offer a minimalist and univocal vision
of his artistic inspiration compared to the composite articulate modes characteristic of his
films. The sobriety of the texts reminds us primarily of his predilection for expressive means
such as graphics and publicity films, which naturally tend to essential language.
Lastly, I would mention how Kiarostami’s poetry shows none of the insistent concern
with the metalinguistic aspect so important in his cinema. I believe this is due to the differ-
ent ways he uses the two artistic means to communicate with audiences and to induce them
to reflect on surrounding reality. Cinema can notoriously create such deep involvement as
to suspend the viewer’s critical faculties. And this is what Kiarostami wishes to avoid by
resorting, in many of his films, to expedients alerting viewers to the fact they are contem-
plating pure fiction. The filmmaker thus keeps his public on their toes, never allowing any
emotional or aesthetic involvement but always urging them to confront and reflect on the
themes being illustrated. In the poetry, on the other hand, instead of resorting to an aliena-
tion effect, he creates a kind of mimesis of reality. In this case he attempts to offer – through
the careful and precise observation of the surrounding world – familiar and common im-
ages which readers will inevitably recognize as part of their own everyday experience (here
we might almost say it is an attempt to secularize the Japanese haiku). Again this results in
the possibility of a dialogue between author and audience on the themes illustrated. To es-
tablish such exchanges, therefore, the filmmaker Kiarostami reveals and makes felt his own
presence, whereas the poet Kiarostami avoids the reader’s direct gaze by concealing himself
behind the images he describes. In both cases, however, the central role of the audience is
emphasized. This aspect thus brings together the poetry and cinema, creating at the same
time a kind of watershed with two other art forms he uses and which seem to be driven
by more personal factors. In fact Kiarostami has often described his activities as a painter
and photographer as a kind of therapy to satisfy his innate need to depict the details of sur-
rounding reality without any special emphasis on the interactive relationship with the audi-
ence. The written word seems to confirm, albeit with the variations mentioned above, the
lesson of his cinema : the expressive need is combined with the desire of a dialogue and the

therapy is transformed from being individual to being collective so that we are all involved
in contemplating our relationship with other people and the world we live in.

Nell’articolo sono descritti alcuni aspetti delle relazioni fra le poesie e i film di Kiarostami. Nella prima delle
tre parti vengono fatte alcune osservazioni sull’importanza e sulla funzione dell’immagine nel contesto
dell’attività artistica di Kiarostami. Questo implica un’analisi dei modi in cui le immagini sono descritte e
organizzate nelle poesie di Hamrâh bâ bâd. Partendo da quest’analisi, sono state studiate le somiglianze fra
le poesie e i film in termini visuali e sonori. La seconda parte dell’articolo è dedicata alla descrizione delle
analogie semantiche fra le poesie in Hamrâh bâ bâd e i film, con particolare attenzione ai soggetti principali
(persone, animali, piante, ecc.), ai contesti geografici e temporali (i paesaggi con i villaggi e con le strade,
il cielo con il sole e con la luna, la notte, ecc.) e ai temi (la solitudine, la solidarietà, l’incomunicabilità,
ecc.). La parte finale dell’articolo si concentra su un tema specifico che caratterizza sia le poesie sia i film :  

l’incertezza della realtà (con le ambiguità, i dubbi, le duplicità, le attese, i contrasti, le incomprensioni, ecc.).
L’analisi rivela come il trattamento di questo tema da parte di Kiarostami sia simile nelle poesie e nei film.

The paper describes some aspects of the relations between Kiarostami’s poems and his films. In the first of
three parts some remarks are made on the importance and function of the image in Kiarostami’s artistic ac-
tivities. This involves an analysis of the way the images are described and organized in the poems of Hamrâh
still images: kiarostami ’ s poetry and cinema 19
bâ bâd. On the basis of this analysis, the similarities between the poems and the films are then explored in
terms of their respective visual and sound aspects. The second part of the paper is devoted to a description
of the semantic analogies between the poems in Hamrâh bâ bâd and the films, especially with regard to the
main characters (people, animals, plants, etc.), geographical and temporal contexts (the landscapes with
their villages and roads, the sky with the sun and the moon, the night, etc.), and themes (loneliness, solidar-
ity, incommunicability, etc.). The final part of the paper focuses on a specific theme characterizing both
the poems and the films : the uncertainty of reality (with its ambiguities, doubts, duplicities, expectations,

contrasts, misunderstandings, and so on). The analysis reveals how Kiarostami’s treatment of this theme is
similar in his poems and films.
co mp osto in car atter e dan t e m on oty pe da l la
fabr izio serr a editore, p i s a · roma .
stampato e rilegato n e l la
t ipo g r afia di ag nan o, ag na n o p i s a n o ( p i s a ) .

Aprile 2015
(cz 2/fg 13)

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