Abbas Kiarostami’s experimental, posthumous 24 Frames is a meditative insight into a great filmmaker’s creative process.
Cinema is Truthby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Godard said that cinema is truth at 24 frames per second and this posthumous film by Abbas Kiarostami, divided into 24 segments, is his truth, the legacy of his vision left after his death last year at the age of 76.
It’s a series of four-and-a-half minute segments based on black-and-white photographs he took, each imagining what may or may not have happened before and after that moment. Though the first frame is, in fact, an image of Breugel the Elder’s 1565 Hunters in the Snow, a painting quoted by filmmakers from Tarkovsky to Von Trier, depicting huntsmen and their dogs returning home on a wintry day. As you watch, it animates. The chimney of the house in the centre slowly starts to smoke, it starts to snow, you hear the hunter’s dogs barking and one runs around, crows fly across and land.
In later frames, black-and-white photographs also start to animate. Deer run across the screen; cows file along a seashore; birds land on a railing overlooking the sea and it rains heavily; as you look through an open window, there’s a woman’s voice singing; six immigrants stand a bridge as they stare at the Eiffel Tower. You are forced to focus on the images, all of which last for the same amount of time. In the last frame, a girl sleeps in front of a computer, where an old movie is just finishing. Breaking three taboos in one, in the film, a woman and man kiss, the man removes her hat to show her hair, while a woman sings Love Never Dies from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical of the same name.
The temptation is to construct a narrative to run through the frames but this would not seem to be the point. The repetitiveness of concentrating on watching them – like pictures in a gallery of the wind, waves, crows, animals – is like quiet meditation on the power of the image. The cumulative effect is a mesmerising insight into Kiarostami’s creative process.
24 Frames premiered in the Official Selection at the 70th Cannes Film Festival and screens in the 61st BFI London Film Festival on 11 and 13 October 2017.