‘Like Someone in Love’

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Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
France, Japan, 2012

Abbas Kiarostami continues to direct away from, but still in the spirit of Iran with his 2012 effort Like Someone in Love. In a film that is visually different but thematically similar to his Iranian-language masterpiece Taste of Cherry, Kiarostami ruminates on obsessive love and, akin to his 2010 film Certified Copy, the art of reproduction.

Akiko (Rin Takanashi) is a young prostitute (her profession, never stated, is constantly implied). She’s forced into an encounter with Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), a lonely, lively professor and the two unexpectedly bond, much to the chagrin of Akiko’s infatuated boyfriend, Noriaki (Ryo Kase).

While Like Someone in Love isn’t as cinematically playful as Certified Copy, it still finds Kiarostami dipping into a similar bag of tricks and is anything but your standard-fare drama. Made up of only a small handful of long scenes, the film relies heavily on point-of-view and off-screen sound, both of which are Kiarostami’s ways to fool the viewer and further his theme.

Take the first scene of the film: the camera shows us the back of a crowded café. We hear a woman’s voice, but aren’t sure which of the women is speaking. As various people turn towards the camera it’s slowly revealed that none of them are the speaker and that, in fact, we are looking through the eyes of Akiko, whose voice we hear.

While this is certainly a way to prolong the introduction of the main character in somewhat typical narrative fashion, it’s also Kiarostami’s way of confusing identity – we automatically associate the voice with someone on-screen simply because the visuals and audio seem to match up: cinematic language is easily manipulated.

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Indeed, much of Like Someone in Love is made up of point-of-view, and that’s no surprise given the subject matter where everyone is obsessed with someone else. Akiko longs for her grandmother and a simpler life; Takashi misses his own wife and finds companionship in Akiko; Noriaki’s fixation on Akiko verges on the dangerous; even Takashi’s nosy neighbor can’t help but stare out the window at a lost-love.

The best parts of Kiarostami’s film are also the most ambiguous. Though Noriaki is a pent up ball of anger (Kase gives a fantastic performance) we see very little of his violence on-screen. The night of Akiko and Takashi’s first encounter is conveniently elided. Many characters refer to a vague past that never surfaces beyond their own, biased recollection.

As in Certified Copy, which reveled in the idea of the facsimile and of actors playing actors playing actors, etc, Like Someone in Love plays a similar Pygmalion card. Takashi tells Akiko that she looks like his wife; she claims to look like a painting on Takashi’s wall; Noriaki mistakes Takashi for Akiko’s grandfather; the neighbor mistakes Akiko for Takashi’s granddaughter. This isn’t mere mistaken identity. It’s part of Kiarostami’s thesis, and one that he began with his films in Iran as early as Close-Up (1990): that film creates character and vice versa, and that fakeness is relative when framed cinematically.

– Neal Dhand

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