By Ali Moosavi.
The late Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s last film, 24 Frames, was shown as a special event of the 70th Cannes Film Festival, bringing an innovative, masterful career to an end. His words introduce the project best:
I first conceived of 24 Frames while reflecting on the works of iconic painters whose pieces were created prior to the advent of cinema; I pondered the aspiration of artists in this era to capture reality with precision. The artists capture a snapshot, a single frame, nothing before, nothing after. 24 Frames began with musings on epochal paintings and evolved with the photographs I had taken over the years. Each of these frames is in essence 4 minutes and 30 seconds of what I imagine to have transpired before and after a single image.
He has tackled this idea by adding new external elements to existing photos taken by him. The only exception is the first frame which is the painting The Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel. These elements include visual and sound effects, animation, music and songs. For example, to one of his famous photos of trees in the snow, he has added a group of deer passing by.
24 Frames belongs to the experimental group of Kiarostami’s films, such as Five. Some of the added elements are repeated in different frames. These include the addition of snowfall, birds, and other animals. The total time of around two hours is a little overlong for this type of film; with a few less frames I think it would have had more impact.
Some of the frames are lovely, such as a photo Kiarostami had taken from the back of an Iranian family looking at the Eifel Tower. To the forefront of the photo he has added passers by including a lady singing French songs. These bring the photo to life and make us look at photos in a different light. The most poignant point in the film occurs in the last frame. It is a black and white photo of a window, taken by Kiarostami. On the window sill he has added a photo frame showing a clip from a classic B&W film of a two lovers embracing, with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Love Never Dies” playing in the background. The clip is shown in super slow motion, and when it finishes and The End title flashes on the photo frame, one realizes that this is indeed the end for a master of cinema, and one or two tears start to flow.
Ali Moosavi has worked in documentary television and has written for Film Magazine (Iran), Cine-Eye (London), and Film International (Sweden). He contributed to the second volume of the The Directory of World Cinema: Iran (Intellect, 2015) and is based in the United Arab Emirates.