The gray screen of a security camera fizzles into focus, revealing the penetrating hate-filled eyes of a young man. Muted shouts spurt from his mouth, possessed, infuriated lips staining the camera with saliva as his fists pound relentlessly at the door in front of him, the rhythmic boom now a frenzy shaking the walls as if a seizure were creeping into the building. All language seems to have vanished, replaced with the guttural rumblings of a madness invading every inch of the screen. It is these basic and unconscious aspects of passion that form the basis of director Abbas Kiarostami’s latest film Like Someone In Love.
The story follows a young woman named Akiko (played by Rin Takanashi). Having moved to Tokyo from her rural home, Akiko has been working as an escort while taking classes at a local university. After missing an opportunity to see her visiting grandmother one evening, Akiko is assigned to spend the night with a renowned sociology professor named Takashi (played by Tadashi Okuno). Developing a relationship more akin to grandfather and granddaughter, the two’s time together is unexpectedly interrupted by the pursuits of Akiko’s domineering boyfriend Noriaki (played by Ryo Kase). Soon, elements of jealousy and passion enter the scene, creating a hostility that sends the characters spiraling into dark and unexpected territory.
The intricacies of relationships both romantic and familial weave together a mosaic of longing and heartbreak that transforms the characters into rich living embodiments of the emotions they are simultaneously trying to express and suppress; the most significant of these being love. Kiarostami dissects love, and its infinite complexities, with careful and precise detail, allowing it to transcend simple and expected definitions which in turn give it a more mysterious and abstract quality, enabling powerfully visceral sensations to surface.
The dynamic between Akiko, Takashi and Noriaki seems like a case study pulled from the pages of The Anatomy Of Dependence, the seminal work by psychoanalyst Takeo Doi about the concept of amae, a quality of behavior in Japanese society that suggests an individual will act out, often in a childish manner, in an attempt to coax an authority figure into indulging or taking care of them. This type of self-expression manifests itself in a variety of intriguing and compelling ways throughout the narrative, from Akiko lying in Takashi’s bed refusing to move to Noriaki breaking a window in a jealous rage, the primal qualities of need and desire disregard social conventions and expectations in favor of the raw components of survival.
A motif that surfaces quite frequently in the film is the idea of reflections. Through Katsumi Yanagijima’s photography, cityscapes, auto body shops, bedrooms and restaurants wash and mesh together in a flowing current of passion and longing, where time and age cease to exist leaving blurred splashes of reality to enhance the desires of the characters.
As with his previous film Certified Copy, Kiarostami began the production of Like Someone In Love with draft versions in which he shot with just the location sets, then with stand-ins before real filming began with the actors. This process adds a significant richness to his work with Kiarostami acting as the architect and laying the foundation of the project, but allowing the gradual incorporation of talent and elements to build upon one another, ultimately completing a living force that is at times unexpected, but always exciting and authentic to the unpredictable nature of life itself. Producer Marin Karmitz, who has worked with Kiarostami since 1999’s The Wind Will Carry Us, said of his relationship with the director that, “Abbas Kiarostami lets his ideas blossom like flowers, and whereas some wither away, others flourish.”
With Like Someone In Love, this assessment has never been truer, and allows the viewer to be swept up in both frustrating moments of uncertainty and the blissful beautiful emotions that are the driving forces within us all.
Like Someone In Love is now showing in New York and L.A.