11. Taste of Cherry (1997)

Roger's Rating :

Should be :

When I watched the great movie, Goodbye Solo, last week I was immediately reminded of this Iranian movie from 1997. Roger had given this movie 1 star in his review. I thought I really liked it, but I wasn't absolutely sure so I decided to get it again.
The movie has Mr. Badii driving around looking for someone who will do a job for him. The movie is quiet and bleak like the landscape. Mr. Badii is on a mission. At first we think he is gay and he is trying to make a pickup. We find out as the movie slowly unfolds that he is trying to find someone who will throw twenty shovels of dirt on him after he kills himself.
The movie is very much like Goodbye Solo in that the facts are hard to come by. Mr. Badii, like William in Solo keeps things to himself. But both movies turn into mysteries as we search for clues as to why these men would want to end their lives.
The movie is slow, but unlike what Roger said in his review, it is never boring. The movie focuses on Mr. Badii's eyes as he searches and we try to see into his eyes and view his soul. He picks up a someone studying at a seminary and we learn some more about Mr. Badii as he tries to convince him to take the job. He says : "I know that your duty is to preach and guide people. But you're young, you have time, you can do that later. It's your hands that I need. I don't need your tongue or your mind. I'm lucky that these hands belong to a true believer. With the patience, endurance and perseverance that you learn you're the best person to carry out this job. I know my decision goes against your beliefs. You believe God gives life and takes it when he sees fit. But there comes a time when a man can't go on. He's exhausted and can't wait for God to act. So he decides to act himself. There that's what's called 'suicide'". Mr. Badii is in a great deal of pain and he says that he is not able to discuss it. The young man tells him that suicide is against the Muslim religion and that he cannot help him.
Mr. Badii tells him that being unhappy is a sin too because when you are unhappy you hurt other people and that is a sin. Mr. Badii says that he thinks that God is so great and merciful that he doesn't want to see his people unhappy and suffer. He tells the young man that he is going to take all of his sleeping pills and lie in the hole he has dug for himself. He only needs him to cover him with dirt. The young man again tells him that he cannot help him commit a sin.
Mr. Badii finally finds someone willing to help. The man  tells him that every problem has a solution - be it family, debt, whatever. the man tells him a story of how when he first got married he had so many problems that he decided to end it all. He climbed a tree and was going to hang himself but he felt a soft mulberry in his hand. He began eating them and then noticed the sun was rising over the mountaintop. He heard children heading off to school. He shook the tree for them and then he gathered some and went home to his wife. A mulberry had saved his life.
The man, Mr. Bagheri, then goes on to tell a parable. "A Turk goes to see a doctor. He tells him: 'When I touch my body with my finger, it hurts. When I touch my head it hurts, my legs, it hurts, my belly, my hand, it hurts'. The doctor examines him and then tells him : 'Your body's fine but your finger is broken!' My dear man, your mind is ill but there's nothing wrong with you. Change your outlook. I had left home to kill myself but a mulberry changed me, an ordinary, unimportant mulberry. The world isn't the way you see it. You have to change your outlook and change the world."
The movie is almost over and we are hoping that Mr. Badii has been convinced. This stranger, who is willing to do the job because he needs the money to help cure his child, has made a great speech. What will Mr. Badii decide? The mystery continues.
Roger finishes his review with : "Yes, there is a humanistic feeling underlying the action. Yes, an Iranian director making a film on the forbidden subject of suicide must have courage. Yes, we applaud the stirrings of artistic independence in the strict Islamic republic. But is Taste of Cherry a worthwhile viewing experience? I say it is not." I completely disagree. I think Taste of Cherry is such a wonderful movie. It talks about important things. It isn't the most exciting or dramatic movie ever made but I found it fascinating. With an 82% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.4 on IMDB I am probably not alone. This has to go down as one of Roger's worst reviews.

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