Combustible Celluloid
Get the Poster
Own it:
Search for streaming:
NetflixHuluGoogle PlayGooglePlayCan I
With: Mania Akbari, Amin Maher
Written by: Abbas Kiarostami
Directed by: Abbas Kiarostami
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Farsi with English subtitles
Running Time: 90
Date: 05/20/2002

Ten (2003)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Drive, She Said

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Arguably the world's greatest filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami has baffledmany of his fans with his recent announcement that he would shoot moviesonly on digital video from now on.

His last film, the documentary ABC Africa (which never found distribution in the Bay Area), was the first of these, and the new film Ten, which opens today in Bay Area theaters, is the second.

Kiarostami shot 99% of "Ten" from two tiny digital cameras mounted on the dashboard of a car, one pointed at the car's driver and the other at the passenger. The story takes place in ten sequences, over an unspecified period of time, with the driver (Mania Akbari) remaining constant and the passengers varying.

She drives her son (Amin Maher) four times, her sister twice, an unnamed female passenger twice, and gives rides to a prostitute and an old lady on her way to temple. For the sake of the film, it's safe to assume that, in Tehran, people freely give rides to strangers.

Whereas the shape of the terrain and physical space were hugely important in Kiarostami's previous features, especially in Where Is the Friend's Home?, And Life Goes On, Taste of Cherry and The Wind Will Carry Us, it's virtually nonexistent here, save for what we can see out the car windows.

This has led many viewers and reviewers to underestimate Ten, which regardless works in its own mysterious ways. The beautiful woman driver wears lipstick and sunglasses and appears more confident than the usual images we get of repressed Iranian women. We also learn that she's a photographer by trade and is at least middle-class, if not upper-middle class.

Her son behaves like a monster, berating her for leaving his father and constantly arguing with her. Even as a young boy, he's already been imbued with the disturbing sensibilities that women are not worth as much as men. Of his new potential stepmother, he lashes out to his mother that she will be "better than you."

The driver's other passengers follow up on this theme. The driver's sister loses her husband over the course of her two rides, and the prostitute -- whose face we never see -- sings the praises of her own kind of freedom. She's never dependent on one man. The only time the camera moves is to follow the prostitute as she walks away from the car and enters a new one.

The other female passenger shaves her head over the course of her two rides, also the result of a failed relationship with a man. When she reveals her shorn head, she breaks unabashedly into tears mixed with laughter, a whole wave of emotions breaking all at once.

Kiarostami routinely works with non-actors, and with this film he has coaxed some of the finest performances of his career. In addition, he chooses between his two simple shots with great wisdom and brilliant timing. We do not see the woman driver during the entire first sequence, and so it takes time for our allegiance to shift to her.

I will admit that I found myself missing the beauties of some of Kiarostami's other films, but Ten is nonetheless a sublime experiment with a master's touch. (From The Examiner, May 6, 2003.)

DVD Details: Zeitgeist Video has released Ten on DVD with the best possible extra, Kiarostami's new feature documentary follow-up 10 on Ten (83 minutes), which the DVD sleeve correctly describes as a "master class." While driving around, Kiarostami takes us through the making of Ten and expounds upon his working methods and his idealogy. We also get a small explanation as to the mysterious ending of Taste of Cherry. Occasionally we see clips from the film or other small cutaways, but mostly we're hanging around with the master filmmaker himself (wearing his trademark dark glasses). Otherwise, the only drawback to seeing Ten on DVD is that the digital video looks just like digital video, whereas during its theatrical release, the projection softened the picture and gave it a more film-like look. Nonetheless, this is another great feature from Kiarostami and it's nice to have it available at home.

Movies Unlimtied