Through the Olive Trees – Zire darakhatan zeyton (1994)
Directed by: Abbas Kiarostami | 103 minutes | drama | Actors: Mohamad Ali Keshavarz, Farhad Kheradmand, Zarifeh Shiva, Hossein Rezai, Tahereh Ladanian, Hocine Redai, Zahra Nourou, Nasret Betri, Azim Aziz Nia, Astadouli Babani, N. Boursadiki, Kheda Barech Defai, Ahmed Ahmed Poor, Babek Ahmed Poor
In the final part of the Koker trilogy, director Abbas Kiarostami once again returns to the north of Iran. The earthquake of 1990, which the second Koker film ‘Life, and Nothing More…’ (1992) is about, has been a few years ago. The life of the villagers resumes. This time the focus is on the newlyweds from ‘Life, and Nothing More…’. Despite the great havoc caused by the earthquake, this happy couple seemed very happy with each other, but nothing could be further from the truth. After all, it wouldn’t be a Kiarostami movie if fiction and non-fiction weren’t intertwined.
The Koker trilogy is a small meta-story that ends in ‘Through the Olive Trees’ with the focus on a young couple who was presented as non-fiction in the second part. It soon becomes apparent that this is not the case at all and that a director was present who cast this couple for his film about the region. Complicated to explain, but it all falls into place. In ‘Life, and Nothing More…’ an unnamed director (Farhad Kheradmand) and his son go in search of the protagonist of the first part of the trilogy. There he starts talking with Hossein (Hossein Rezai), a young man in a suit who explains that despite the earthquake he is marrying his beloved Tahereh (Tahereh Ladanian). This spontaneous, moving scene turns out to be a lot more complicated than first thought. The so-called ‘director’ of the film ‘Life, and Nothing More…’ (Mohamad Ali Keshavarz) has staged it all for his own film. While casting, he accidentally bumps into Hossein and Tahereh and decides they’re perfect for reenacting the true story of a newlywed couple. It turns out that Hossein and Tahereh have personal problems with each other outside the film, namely that Hossein proposed to Tahereh shortly before the shooting. Tahereh’s family is against the marriage, because Hossein has no home and is illiterate. This makes shooting the scene for the ‘director with no name’ film difficult, as Tahereh refuses to cooperate. When they are not filming, Hossein tries to convince his lover to marry him, but Tahereh proves difficult to persuade.
Kiarostami actually films two movies at the same time. We learn more about the non-fictional life of the villagers after the earthquake, but also about the fictional upcoming wedding of Hossein and Tahereh who are actually not that in love at all. For those who didn’t get a headache from the complicated construction of the second part of the Koker trilogy, ‘Through the Olive Trees’ is an excellent sequel and ending. Kiarostami shows once again that he is the undisputed master of mixing documentary and fiction. After seeing ‘Life, and Nothing More…’ ‘Through the Olive Trees’ feels a little bit of betrayal, as the emotionally powerful scenes between the villagers may not have happened at all. That does not alter the fact that it is very clever how Kiarostami once again fools the viewer by giving his protagonists a completely different role, which gives them even more character. After seeing ‘Through the Olive Trees’, Hossein and Tahereh’s story takes on even more meaning. Besides the brilliant idea of mixing reality and feature film (again and more), the last part of the triptych is also a joy in terms of cinematography. Where in the first part of the trilogy the landscape around the village was rough and empty, now there are suddenly trees that are in full bloom and endless green grasslands. It is a symbol of the resurrection of the region after the earthquake. After rain comes sunshine.
‘Through the Olive Trees’ is an unmissable conclusion to a very special story of forgotten individuals who live in the middle of nowhere. Kiarostami shows that there are not only stories to tell in big cities like Tehran where there is plenty to do, but there is also enough going on in the smaller areas of the world.