A lot of the reviews of Like Someone In Love, a new film by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, speak of uncertain identities, as if the viewer is purposely being deceived. Kiarostami’s last film, the excellent Certified Copy (2010), followed a couple through the streets of Tuscany as they talked about life and art; the whole time, the viewer was left confused about whether or not the couple had known each other for many years, or if they had just met, and formed a very powerful connection. Like Someone In Love didn’t remind me much of the earlier film — the connections critics are making seem wishful, a way of trying to understand a movie that still, three days after I’ve seen it, eludes me.
What it reminds me of more is Ten, a film Kiarostami made in 2002, in which the camera is placed on the dashboard of an enlightened Iranian woman’s car as she drives around Tehran. During the course of the story, she has conversations with ten characters (hence the name), including her son, a prostitute, and a woman who, like her, has recently re-discovered her faith in Islam. Her story is never made explicit — the viewer is left to piece together an understanding of her place in society through the lens of her passengers questions, indictments, and own pleas for help.
Throughout, she is constantly moving through the city. The dialogue is punctured by the staccato of the turn signal, the sound of traffic on the freeway, the clicking of people opening and closing doors. When the car is in transit, there is a visceral sense that the narrative is moving forward — when it comes to a halt in traffic, say, or when the woman stops to give alms to a beggar on her way to the temple, the viewer is left frustrated, like they’ve metaphorically hit a wall. For me, the effect of the movement was powerful — I am somebody who finds relief from my own troubles in the act of propelling myself, however pointlessly, through space. Driving in my car nowhere, riding my bicycle over bridges, walking instead of waiting for the subway. Watching that very private method of coping with life expressed on film moved me deeply — it also reminded me very much of Joan Didion.