Close up: cinema on trial

It took me some time to make sense of Close Up by Kiarostami.  At first, I wasn’t understanding the reasons why this film was so acclaimed. Later, I realized that I was watching it from a very 2017 perspective in which we are so immerse into an imaginative construction that the interpolation between film and reality doesn’t surprise us anymore. 

In the article we read, Bernard Stiegler compares Kiarostami and Fellini’s Intervista. I didn’t watch the entire Intervista and therefore I won’t comment on it, but the issue of fiction – reality is present in various Fellini’s films. I am thinking for example of La dolce vita, which starts and with two strong meta- statements on the dichotomy between fiction and reality and on the possibility of being “mislead” and of taking fiction for real.

“Look, it’s Jesus!”, say the girls at the beginning of the film looking at the statue of Christ that is flying over Rome.  For the girls Christ is just a statute, a fake representation of himself, exactly as in Close Up Sabzian is a himself and an shadow of itself. Quoting from Stigler:
The character can no longer be distinguished from the one who plays himself, but must be distinguished from the time that has passed between this character, as he was a few weeks earlier, and the character who playsthis character. What is this time that has passed, and has arrived, if not the time of the production of the film, and first of all of this film that the protagonists of this affair have made in their respective psychic imaginations, and that is realized here, afterwards, an affair that will be judged by a tribunal—but also by us, the spectators: by our psychic imaginations determined and indetermined by the artificial imagination that is the image object that we are watching: Close Up?

I am not sure if it is worthy discussing Sabzian’s case in terms of “lie” and “truth”. It is interesting to notice how both Kiarostami and Fellini’s commentaries are not moral but only metacinematic (is this the case also in Intervista? Probably so.) They both decide not to show an “impression of reality” but to portray cinema’s power of transforming reality itself into a screenscape. It seems that if we abandon the presupposition of “impression of reality”, we enter a sphere of representation which cannot be judge in terms of authenticity or truthiness but which can be only put on trial in the terms of its own conventions.

The two directors conclude in a slightly different way. Kiarostami remains in the realm of cinema by entering the film The Cyclist (symbolized by the two guys on the motorcycle in the closing scene). Differently, Fellini ends by addressing the audience and almost directly telling to the spectator that “look it’s all a reflection of the reflection, but there is nothing we can do about it” (with the close up on the eyes of a gigantic monster-like fish that also call back the viewer to Jesus the statue of the beginning and with a disoriented protagonist who is unable to communicate).

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