Still Worlds

With 24 Frames, Abbas Kiarostami creates a film akin to a piece of ambient music. The key difference, however, is that Kiarostami works backwards; the image comes first, and then the expected sounds proceed rather than the other way around. Think of, for example, Brian Eno’s Music for Films in which Eno created ambient tracks for films that don’t exist. And yet, listening to each piece of Music for Films evokes a story that should be accompanied by an image. Using the image as a starting point allows Kiarostami to play with time, and thus, proceed from there to craft a mood. Similar to Chris Marker’s low-budget La Jetee (1962), there is little to no movement in 24 Frames. Kiarostami’s focus on the still image does more than point toward a flirtation with experimentation by highlighting a new form of storytelling. Comprised of twenty-four images, Kiarostami sets out to evoke the mood of each image by way of sound. The sound of wind, chirping, distant logging and soon thereafter, the fall of timber, accompanies the image of a bird resting on stacks of lumber. Nearly two-hours in length, there comes a point in 24 Frames where our gaze stops its incessant movement in search for secrets, and where our eyes become used to the stillness. If Kiarostami has always been a director who challenged how films were watched as he did in Close Up (1990), then with 24 Frames, his technique becomes more radical, minimizing the film’s visual aspect, and training us to hear a story rather than see.

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