Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's latest film is a minimalist drama that's set inside a car. Following an anonymous female driver (Akbari) over several days as she drives through the city of Tehran, the camera records ten conversations that she has with various passengers, including her sister, her wilful seven-year-old son (who's angry that she's divorced his father - a rare occurrence in Iran's patriarchal culture), an old woman on her way to church, and a local prostitute.
Reliant on dialogue rather than camerawork or editing (the camera's always stationary since it's secured to the dashboard of the woman's jeep), this is an unusual piece of filmmaking that's occasionally frustrating and often confusing. But if anyone can pull off an experiment as quietly audacious as this, it's Kiarostami.
By focusing on these predominantly female characters and the driver's stormy relationship with her precocious (and worryingly chauvinist) son, "Ten" offers a startling glimpse of Iranian culture. The cumulative effect of which is all the more revealing because of the style of filming that Kiarostami adopts. Poised somewhere between drama and documentary, the story's told through an accumulation of minor details, half-finished sentences, snippets of dialogue, and unanswered questions.
As an art-house, minimalist road movie, the profound simplicity of the film's storytelling makes quite a change from the allegorical mode of Iranian cinema seen in films like Marziyeh Meshkini's "The Day I Became a Woman". This is vibrant, gritty filmmaking that proves that Kiarostami is still one of the most consistently fascinating filmmakers of our times.
In Farsi with English subtitles.