Published over at the divine Running In Heels.
Certified Copy is a film which is as beautiful as it is painful. Provoking questions about the relationships between us and those we love the most, whether mother and son, husband and wife or even between two strangers.
Written and directed by Iranian-born Abbas Kiarostami, Certified Copy is a story which Kiarostami professes ‘could happen to anyone, anywhere’ but it is not, however, like any film you are likely to have encountered before. And despite its focus on a romance between a man and woman, it is by no means your usual Hollywood romcom.
The many themes that construct this film, including art, marriage, and children make for a complex plot but then, life is complicated and that is surely one of the messages Kiarostami is trying to impress upon the viewer.
Juliette Binoche is completely mesmerising in the lead female role; she won Best Actress at Cannes for her performance in the film. Unlike the famous Binoche, however, in the male lead is the relatively unknown William Shimell. Although highly respected in his usual vocation as opera singer, the British protagonist had never acted in a film before Certifed Copy.
The film focuses on Binoche and Shimell’s characters, almost exclusively. Most of the film happens in real time, making the dialogue extremely important – just as well then that it is an exquisitely written script.
The cinematography is truly stunning, helped of course by the glorious rural Italian setting. Self-consciously naturalistic the film has no soundtrack, instead focusing on each scene’s unique background noise and the long lingering shots from a hand-held steady cam make for an almost uncomfortably intimate effect.
Shimell’s character is writer, James Miller, in Italy to talk about his latest book (called Certified Copy) and Binoche, known simply as ‘She’, is an antiquities shop owner who attends his talk with keen interest.
It appears that she has an overwhelming desire to be original, as seen when she spontaneously whisks the middle-aged writer away to the countryside. She is also searching for originality in her life – perhaps why she maintains such a strained relationship with her son – in many ways a copy of her and/or his father.
He, however, has little emotional attachment to original things, placing just as much importance on cheap imitations and causing much debate between the pair.
While away the strangers are mistaken for a married couple in a café and appear to keep up the charade. Walking through the beautiful village nestled in the Tuscan countryside the couple talk about their wedding, their life together, and decide it’s their anniversary but of course it’s all an act. Or is it?
If you leave Certified Copy unsure of anything else you can console yourself in that Kiarostami’s film certainly leaves ample room for interpretation and therein lies the catch, and it will either thrill or infuriate you.