From its opening moments, The Wind Will Carry Us is about seeing. Who is seen, why they are being seen and, perhaps even more importantly, who is not seen, are pivotal moments that convey ideological and thematic weight to the film.
For instance, the opening sequence is a wide panning shot following the progress of a car full of people in search of a small rural village. The directions they have been given ask them to look for a giant tree at the top of a hill, one that they begin arguing over since there are many trees on many hills. They eventually find the undeniable tree, but the audience begins hearing about it before they see it.
These travelers, led by the Engineer (Bezad Dorani) are all from the city and they have come to the village under false pretenses. They joke that they are looking for treasure but instead they are more concerned about the elderly lady who is dying, although for what reason remains unclear for most of the film. In the meantime, they are concerned with looking at certain parts of the village.
The film becomes a sort of self-reflexive critique of the urban gaze on the rural landscape and lifestyle. For instance, when the Engineer finds his camera, he tries to take some photos of a local woman, but she asks him to put away his camera and not photograph her. His gaze is denied within the fiction of the film.
On a filmmaking level, the film itself was made in a village and how it captures that village reveals some of the self-imposed limitations of the film. For one, almost no interiors of the film is shot, only that which can be seen from the outside. Director Abbas Kiarostami seems mindful of protecting the privacy of these people’s lives by keeping the camera outside of their homes.
The one exception is a powerful scene in which the Engineer enters the basement of one of the homes to get some milk. The lady milking for him he has heard is beautiful and he request she lights up her face so he can see her beauty. She refuses, and remains unseen, denying the male gaze.
And while she denies the gaze and we only see her dark outline, there are other characters we don’t see at all. The uncle who hosts the Engineer and his crew, the old lady who is dying, and a man digging on top of the hill are all invisible characters, referred or perhaps overheard throughout the film but never seen.
By making the audience consider what is seen and what is unseen, The Wind Will Carry Us asks the audience to consider the boundaries of filmmaking and the ability of film to leave something unseen but still make them a powerful presence in the film. “Show don’t tell” is an old adages Kiarostami flips on its head, asking the audience to consider when not showing can be more powerful than showing.
© 2016 James Blake Ewing