Like Someone in Love: driving in cars with old men
Abbas Kiarostami’s films are always mesmerizing and challenging works that require multiple viewings to fully experience what this master-director is creating. His new film, Like Someone in Love (2012), which premiered at Cannes 2012 is yet another film that explores the complexity and fragility of human relationships while driving in a car.
Kiarostami’s second film made outside of his homeland is in many ways similar to his previous Certified Copy (2010) however without any significant plot twists for the audience. The protagonist of the film is a young escort, Akiko played by Rin Takanashi, who is coerced into meeting a client late a night. She protests to her pimp because she needs to study for her test the next day and doesn’t have time to stay with a man. Eventually, she agrees and takes a long taxi ride to his house.
Enter the other central character to the film, Takashi Watanabe played by Tadashi Okuno, the elder client that hired Akiko for the night. He is a quiet, unassuming, and intelligent man, a retired professor of translation and linguistics. He isn’t married, a widower the film implies, and has hired Akiko for company. He doesn’t want to sleep with her but instead sets out a wonderful dinner with wine. Akiko instead just does what she thinks all her clients want and gets undressed in his room. Takashi is disappointed but complies and goes to bed. Kiarostami fades to black. We don’t see them make love and Kiarostami doesn’t let us know either way.
The film’s plot is thin. Almost nonexistent in fact. Instead Kiarostami focuses on conversations between characters, almost always shot in cars, his favorite setting to shoot in. Takashi and Akiko form an unspoken. He is her protector, her unlikely white knight. They meet Akiko’s boyfriend, a man that is looking at overbearing and insecure in the rear-view mirror. He is obsessed with Akiko. He meets the two in Takashi’s car and later on fixes it for him at a shop.
Eventually, the film has to end and it ends at the climax. Kiarostami always manages to surprise me in his films. Some insignificant to significant surprises; whether it’s the appearance of Juliet Binoche in Shirin, the ending of Taste of Cherry, the plot twist in Certified Copy, or the framing of women in Ten, it is always something out of nowhere and always pays off.
I mentioned on the our podcast that it became apparent to me while watching this film how much Kiarostami is influenced by the work of Tati and Antonioni. The way Kiarostami stages scenes and explores the space with his characters and camera recalls Tati’s work. His use of dead space in film recalls but also revises Antonioni’s use of dead space in his films. All three film makers deal with what it means to be human in (post-) modern society.
In this film, Kiarostami explores the way humans can make meaningful connections with those on our periphery while also feeling completely alone with those closest to us.