FEATURE | The Wind Will Carry Us

Anthropology tells us that rituals are liable to mean, and to produce, far more than they superficially appear to. By Louis Rogers

 

What job has the so-called ‘engineer’ arrived in Siah Dareh to do? Some reviews have blithely classified him as a filmmaker or journalist but the truth is we don’t know: the reason for his visit is one of the many points of ambiguity from which The Wind Will Carry Us is miraculously structured. Intentionally or not, however, the engineer does carry out a kind of anthropological work, assimilating himself into the community and customs of Siah Dareh. It’s suggested that he has come to witness the village’s funeral rites, which he finally manages to photograph. This prevailing curiosity helps focus the film’s own interest in rituals and routines, which shape lives at every stratification.

Director Abbas Kiarostami presents the engineer’s time in Siah Dareh through his encounters with the routines that make the village work: a cow is milked in a dark cellar; old men drink tea in the square; grains are dried and hay is made. Other rote activities are hinted at more obliquely, as when the tea vendor complains of the “night work” expected of women. And the engineer has his own routines: in more than one scene we follow him through the motions of his daily shave. A new routine is soon established when he finds he has to drive to high ground to get phone signal: repeatedly, his phone rings, he shouts down it to hold the line, runs to his car, speeds up the hill, finally answers it, and then, more often than not, exchanges a few words with a workman installing cables there.

Anthropology tells us that rituals are liable to mean, and to produce, far more than they superficially appear to. They might serve to affirm or rupture social relationships, or to consecrate changes in status or identity. Anthropologist Jean-Paul Warnier puts this in terms of “manifest” and “latent” goals: the manifest goal of tea-making might be refreshment, but the latent goal could be socialisation, circulation of news, even an establishment of hierarchies. In The Wind Will Carry Us, it’s through the most mundane of routines that bonds are formed and that the film’s sun-dappled, bountiful world is experienced. Its closing words, quoted from the poet Forough Farrokhzad, entreat us to “prefer the present” – to live in the moment rather than deferring to a tenuous afterlife. Kiarostami suggests that habitual, seemingly instrumental acts aren’t just means to ends, but authentic, even exemplary forms of presence.

 

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