A needy middle-aged Tehran citizen is so obsessed with cinema that he pretends to be the famous Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. In this role, he gains the trust of a wealthy family and even promises to shoot its members in his new film. Based on real-life events and involving their participants, Close-Up is Kiarostami’s first universally acclaimed masterpiece. This is a multilayered film about everyday life and imagination, play and identity, in which Kiarostami imperceptibly yet forever erases the line between documentary and fiction, fact and reconstruction, actor and character.
Close-Up’s main protagonist Hossein Sabzian is a poor father of two and a veteran cinephile who has escaped to the cinema since childhood and recognizes himself in various movie characters (for example, in the hero of Kiarostami’s The Traveler). Sabzian’s love for cinema is so huge that once, in a conversation with a stranger about the Iranian film The Cyclist, he pretends to be its director, the renowned Mohsen Makhmalbaf.
Close-Up grew out of a real case, which Kiarostami read about in the newspaper: Hossein Sabzian is held in custody and accused of fraud for impersonating Mahmalbaf, allegedly aiming to deceive and get money from the Ahankhah family. This incredible story is brought to life and explored by Kiarostami with real-life characters, starring the real Hossein Sabzian and members of the Ahankhah family. Kiarostami also appears in one of the scenes, talking to Hossein in prison.
Based on a real case of duplicity and the appropriation of someone else’s identity, Kiarostami turns it into a metaphor for cinema as such, whereby truth and imagination, genuine and fake, the original and the copy exist on equal terms, are indistinguishable from each other and become connected vessels. The profound, paradoxical, and subtle relationship between them is embodied in the very poetics of the film, which erases the line between documentary and fiction, fact and reconstruction, as well as between an actor and their character. Even more confusing is the appearance of the real Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who meets his double and complains sarcastically about his tiredness with being himself. An unobvious formal experiment and an acute drama about a (small) man and his crazy dream as a way to escape the suffocating everyday in one, Close-Up is regularly listed as one of the most important movies in the history of world cinema.
The films will be screened in Persian with Russian subtitles.
Dir. Abbas Kiarostami
Iran, 1990. 98 min. 16+