Through the Olive Trees (1994), the final film in Abbas Kiarostami’s informal Koker trilogy, is commonly considered one of the greatest films of the 1990s. Through the Olive Trees serves in large part as an extrapolation of a peripheral storyline from And Life Goes On (1992), referring to a couple grappling with the possibility of an imminent marriage in the aftermath of a natural disaster. The film speaks to Kiarostami’s veneration of the sideline dramas of everyday life and his dedicated elevation of the incidental.
Through the Olive Trees returns, by way of sophisticated sleight-of-hand, to the scene of the production of And Life Goes On itself. A stonemason cast in the film within the film, romantically pursues a young woman, who is also cast in said film. Despite the fact that the family consider him an ill-suited match, the stonemason continues to pursue his romantic quarry; elements of the fictional world and the filmic world begin to cross-pollinate in mysterious ways.
The final sequence of Through the Olive Trees is inarguably one of Kiarostami’s finest, making superlative use of what critic Jonathan Rosenbaum has called one of Kiarostami's most characteristic techniques - the use of a long shot that serves as a question. When the stonemason’s overtures towards the young woman he desires to marry begin to create escalating problems for the film production, the film’s director, a characteristic Kiarostami surrogate, attempts to intercede as something like a sage elder, but here again Kiarostami retains a sense of humour about himself and his status as interloper from the big city. The film itself makes clear, as a Kiarostami film is invariably bound to do, that questions take primacy over answers.
-Written by Jason Wierzba