Only a filmmaker as gifted as Abbas Kiarostami could take the familiar fish-out-of-water story and invest it with such fresh ideas. The Wind Will Carry Us is a kind of twin cousin to Bill Forsyth's wry comedy Local Hero, in which a high-tech American professional meets his match in a remote Scottish fishing village. The running joke in Forsyth's film was that Mac (Peter Riegert) had to use a lonely phone booth (which became a tourist attraction when Hero gained a cult following) to communicate with his corporate boss (Burt Lancaster) back in Houston. That's matched here by the Engineer (Behzad Dourani) having to drive to the top of a hill to get his cell phone to work every time he talks with his boss back in Tehran. The Iranian village of Siah Dareh, tucked into the side of a hill, is surrounded by undulating hills of green and gold, and Kiarostami's camera alternates between long shots of the Engineer's travels down one-lane dusty roads and medium shots of his climbing around the almost vertical village. The Engineer's mission, to capture on film a rarely seen ritual that will attend the death of a local woman, is put on hold (just as Mac's attempted purchase of the Scottish village for an oil refinery is put off by an old man who holds out) when the woman stubbornly clings to life. The Engineer is by turns impatient, then fascinated with the simplicity of life in the hinterlands. The villagers are friendly but wary, too, of this stranger; their first instinct is to welcome him, but they do wonder at his motives, as he decides to be discreet and not reveal them. Our view is limited almost entirely to what the Engineer sees and hears, and many of the film's characters remain hidden from our sight, from the Engineer's crew and boss to a mysterious man digging a hole on top of what should be known as Cell Phone Hill to the digger's furtive lover to, of course, the dying woman, whose blue-framed window the Engineer only gazes at from a distance. A local boy named Farzad is the Engineer's one-man welcoming committee and source of information; we are given no more data than the Engineer gets. In its framing devices, which often isolate a figure in a landscape, Wind is also reminiscent of L'Avventura, though Kiarostami doesn't present a bleak portrait of alienation the way Antonioni did. He's curious about the way pockets of his country cling to the old ways, whether they're death rituals or simply ignoring much of what the modern world has to offer in the way of cell phones and convenience stores.
by Tom Wiener review