Close-Up Film Analysis

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Close-up: Analysis of a Film

Close-up is a film that is created based on the recreation of actual life events. The film is produced in such a way that it is not in chronological order and, therefore, this makes it intriguing in the eyes of the audience. In this regard when watching the film one ponders on the real intention of the creation of the film. Indeed, the film shifts through the events and scenes presented. Throughout the film, the producer uses the characters for plot development and to demonstrate the relationship between deception and suffering (Dabashi 1).

Evident Societal Themes

Initially, as the film begins it is evident that it combines a great deal of reality with apparent fiction. A man is arrested for the impersonation of Mohsen Makhmalbaf who is at this time one of Iran's famous film directors. Sazbian the impersonator appeared innocent at first as he meets Makhmalbafs in a bus, catches her attention with the tales of his career and ends up being invited in his home. He offers to include the family in his next film. Being an impersonator, "Makhmalbaf" is oblivious of a particular international award that the papers report him winning. The deception continues to unravel when he borrows money from the family and does not return. At this point, the family discovers that they may be conned and therefore Mr. Ahankhanh reports the case to the authorities leading to the arrest.

Social Class and Deception

Evidently, the film brings out various social themes: it contrasts the poor and the rich and within the concept of deception emanates (Cheshire 38). On one side are the upper-class individuals who include the likes of the Ahankhanhs, Kiarostami, and Makhmalbaf who are renowned men in Iran with high reputations. Representing the lower class individuals in the society are individuals like Sazbian, the journalist and the two solder policemen. Deception is seen on how the movie is acted out. To begin with, Sazbian acts with the Ahankhanhs and also has a part in the courtroom. The Ahankhanhs also play various roles with the father pretending that he was aware of the deception all along. The mother wants to show how her elder son's job is better than it really is. The younger son also acts that he is frightened of burglary. Also, the judge acts out the part of a judge in this trial which is indeed staged. The film director acts his own role of a film director while indeed he is creating the final outcome. The film creates an understanding of social class in the essence in which the different people are cast out (Bordwell 180).

Sazbian: A Victim of Social Inequality

Sazbian acts as an individual who is a victim of social inequality. He impersonates another individual because he is not delighted with his current life. In the courtroom, he is documented to being a poor man who even does not have enough money to afford a treat for his son. In another life, he had a totally different life when he acted as Makhmalbaf. He earned a great deal of respect and commanded admiration from several people. He enjoyed the idea of living the life of another person and found it utterly gratifying. However, at some point, he felt guilty about the pretense but nevertheless, he continued with it. Evidently, in the movie, several other characters live lives of deception and they do not live their lives as they are. For instance, the journalist envies the life of famous journalist like Oriana Fallaci. Also, the soldier- policemen are portrayed from their families (wrong place) and are reluctant to do their jobs. Other people are in the wrong job positions including the taxi driver who used to be a pilot in the Iraq-Iran war but now has to be a cab driver to make the ends meet (Hope Finnegan 22). Ahankhah sons also appear to either be underemployed or unemployed. Indeed the young son wishes that he would be an actor.

The Desire for an Ideal Self

In the film, Sazbian is used as a representation of a universal problem. There is a difference between his real self and his ideal. As a result, there is the development of desire for Sazbian with the aim of bringing about the ideal. He desires to become the famous film director or actor. It is this desire that causes him to cross the laws in the society. At some instance we see him comparing himself with a character in the film traveler. "In a way, I am like the boy in the film, who pretends to take photographs to get the money he needs to go to Tehran and see the match. Similarly, the journalist desires to have the life of a celebrity with both fame and money. In another light, the film director employs some force to ensure that some of the minor characters pursue their desires (Jeong 239). In the end, one can realize that one of the major themes that the director pushes forward to the audience is the actor's desires.

Sazbian's Motivation and Deception

Kiarostami used the theme of deception to portray the case of an individual with a damaged character who impersonates another person so as to gain respect. Sazbian, in this case, is painted as an individual who is of weak and pathetic character and whose sole intention is to escape the frustrations presented by his poor life by an attempt to integrate into the high life society. Evidently, Sazbian also perceives his life as low and undeserving. When Kiarostami visits him in prisons he pleads with him to make a film of his suffering. Additionally, this is the reason why the film does not have any comprehensible meaning other than the comic tale of an impostor who wished to become a film director (Lopate 37). The deception that is presented by Sazbian is of a person who is suffering and for whom a moment as a film director offers satisfaction and considerable escape from the reality.

Azure Endings and the Twist of Fate

Even though Kiarostami understood that Sazbian's character might have been twisted, he goes ahead to give him a role in the movie. However, in the end, the film paints Sabzian as a man who is indeed suffering. Indeed at some point, Sazbian inspires the feelings of sympathy. The audience realizes that Sazbian is used in several instances in the films. For instance, the Ahankhanhs use him by attempting to escape from their daily tedious lives. Through Sazbian we are given the story of the Ahankhanhs beginning with their father who is a retired colonel who only now leads a common life. Additionally, we are given information about the sons one who is an engineering graduate and has not yet been able to get employment. Indeed in the film, he is predicted to turn out as his elder brother who works in a bread factory. Through these insinuations, we are led to understand that the elder son is underemployed and has settled for less due to lack of better opportunities.

Deception, Identity, and Role-playing

The issue of suffering is apparent from the film as no one seems to be satisfied with their actual selves. Indeed the film producer attempts to bring about this notion by pointing out that Sazbian is not the only individual with a problem. Indeed the film represents an underlying problem in Iran at the time that the movie was produced. The goal of the producer is to make the audience question their perceptions about their real selves. Kiarostami effectively uses the actors to portray the picture of a man who desperately seeks to find his place in the world guided by desire passion as the sources of opportunity and comfort (Saeed-Vafa, Mehrnaz, and Jonathan). Sazbian offers an explanation to his motivation on the deception. He cites that by playing the role of the director gave him the confidence and that he could command respect from the family. As the impostor, he succeeded in having other people accept his views easily unlike in his real self-scenario. However, away from that environment, he would realize that he was still the same poor person who could not be able to provide for his family and, therefore, he had to live the double life. Having pretended to be someone else did not bring the utmost joy that Sazbian would have wanted in his ideal life. Certainly, acting as another person also increases Sazbian's misery as confirmed during the court proceedings. He says that "when I woke up the next day, I still wanted to go back and play that role. It was very difficult, but I still wanted to do it because of my love for the cinema and also because they respected me."


Upon the realization of the suffering that is suffered by an individual who desired the life of another to an extent of impersonating them, Kiarostami resolves to give a twist to the film by fulfilling the desire of the individual. He particularly decides to reward Sazbian with an undeserved gift. As a result, when he is released from the prison, he offers to take him on his motorbike to deliver his apology to the Ahankhanhs. The intentions, in this case, were to turn the Ahankhanhs into protagonists of the film by fulfilling the promise of delivering Sazbian to them. Additionally, he seeks to ensure that Sazbian indeed meets his hero Makhmalbaf.

The Message Behind the Film

In the film, the director insists on the concept of duality demonstrating the issues of identity and role-playing. Sazbian is portrayed as a poor man who finds comfort in a famous film director. Essentially, he was fond of his films and they play a major role in mentoring who he is. As a result, the movies shape Sazbian's identity as he desires to escape his miserable life to become the famous director. The theme of suffering is brought about when Sazbian is arrested and imprisoned under a trial for fraud. During the trial, Sazbian attests that he did not have any intentions of defrauding the family and he affirms that he was indeed unsure of his motives. As such deception is portrayed in several dimensions. One in which Sazbian deceives the people around him and the deception of oneself. Another evident aspect is the people who were willing to be deceived. For instance, Ahankhanhs sons are evidently struggling with their own identities demonstrating that how an individual presents themselves is majorly influenced by how they want to be seen.

An Overall Look at the Film

The film Close-up presents several interpretations but demonstrates the evident differences between the upper and lower social classes. Among other themes that are evidently demonstrated include human desires and their effect on the journey of life, social inequity, empathy, and justice. In this regard, in this film, Kiarostami effectively demonstrates the evident struggle, suffering that is demonstrated by the representation of oneself and the effect that cinema has in the lives of the audience. Nevertheless, as much as Kiarostami engages Sazbian in the film and shows sympathy, he also earns fame for himself in filmmaking.

Works Cited

Bordwell, David. "The art cinema as a mode of film practice." Poetics of Cinema. Routledge, 2012. 163-182.

Chaudhuri, Shohini, and Howard Finn. "The open image: poetic realism and the New Iranian Cinema." Screen 44.1 (2003): 38-57.

Cheshire, Godfrey. "Where Iranian cinema is." Film Comment29.2 (1993): 38.

Dabashi, Hamid. Close up: Iranian cinema, past, present, and future. Verso, 2001.

Hope Finnegan, Elizabeth. "To See or Not to See: A Wittgensteinian Look at Abbas Kiarostami's Close-up." Film-Philosophy 22.1 (2018): 21-38.

Jeong, Minah. "Across Borders of Documentary and Fiction." 씨네포럼 8 (2007): 243-258.

Lopate, Phillip. "Kiarostami close up." Film Comment 32.4 (1996): 37.

Saeed-Vafa, Mehrnaz, and Jonathan Rosenbaum. Abbas Kiarostami. Vol. 143. University of Illinois Press, 2003.

September 25, 2023




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