In my night, so brief, alas
The wind is about to meet the leaves.
My night so brief is filled with devastating anguish
Hark! Do you hear the whisper of the shadows?
This happiness feels foreign to me.
I am accustomed to despair.
Hark! Do you hear the whisper of the shadows?
There, in the night, something is happening
The moon is red and anxious.
And, clinging to this roof
That could collapse at any moment,
The clouds, like a crowd of mourning women,
Await the birth of the rain.
One second, and then nothing.
Behind this window,
The night trembles
And the earth stops spinning.
Behind this window, a stranger
Worries about me and you.
You in your greenery,
Lay your hands – those burning memories –
On my loving hands.
And entrust your lips, replete with life’s warmth,
To the touch of my loving lips
The wind will carry us!
The wind will carry us!

~ Forough Farrokhzād

In Abbas Kiarostami’s Bad ma ra khahad bord (The Wind Will Carry Us 1999) the wind makes its appearance in the last line of a poem that an urban visitor to Siah Darreh, Behzad, recites in a cavern of the village where a milk-maid, Zeynab, milks her cow. It is this line of the poem that motivates the title of the film. The “wind that carries us” away is Afflatus, the creative breath, emerging from the film’s cavernous depths.

Upending a rational, reductive and secular image associated with narrative film and melodrama, the wind shifts the temporal and spatial coordinates of realism in Kiarostami’s film, and redraws instead the everyday life of the village of Siah Darreh along the cardinal points and geographies of an imaginal realm (mundus imaginalis). The imaginal world is a no place, a Na-koja-Abad.

Expressedly differentiated from the fantasy world to which the secularisation of the imaginal as “the imaginary” refers, the imaginal world, according to the French philosopher Henri Corbin (1964), is productive of realms that are unreachable by leaps of fantasy. “Neither our utopias, nor our science fiction, nor the sinister”, indeed nothing of the kind, Corbin explains, “succeeds in leaving this world or attaining Na-koja-Abad.” In Corbin’s eschatological musings, it is said that only those who are summoned are able to find their way to this sacred and unknown region. As an intermediary world, were the spirit dwells, the imaginal realm sustains the form of our thoughts and desires, “of our presentiments and of our behavior”. It is a sacred realm made up of times that are reversible and mystical cities that are part function of desire itself. As such, the imaginal realm speaks to the external character of an internal state. The commercialised image in cinema represents the degraded form of this imaginal world.1.

It is this latter world, a sacred world without coordinates, that the Wind Will Carry Us animates within cinema: In this world, bodies cast shadows as they drape clothes on lines to dry, herds of sheep fill the unpaved roads and baby chicks litter stairwells. Balls appear followed by running children and apples roll in the dirt and get brushed off and passed on to rest next to an elbow in a coffee shop. Here green hay moves as if on its own, on the back of a disembodied voice. A fabulated world appears to show technology’s utopian capacity to dream, in wonderment of its own continued ability to capture motion in the shifting movements of everyday life, movements that occur, not center-screen, but on the conspicuous peripheries of repeating scenes.

Distinct from other geographies, in the village of Siah Darreh, mobile connections are only made in high places. The depths of the earth, the dark caverns of the village, Siah Darreh’s man-made holes and off-screen spaces, give voice to long-shrouded desires. The milk-maid and her lover make their trysts in these spaces. In the village, time passes like yesterday was a month ago and an old villager lives to be one hundred and fifty or a hundred with a discount.

Emerging from the village cavern, on the train of an anxious whisper in the shadows of Farrokhzad’s poetic voice, the wind drafts a geography in which the serendipity of a milk-maid’s movements determine the lighting of the dark scene, assigning to us, the film’s audience, a seeing that is otherwise.

The story goes “that many viewers who watched the first films of the Lumière brothers were often delighted less by the scenes being staged for their amusement than by the fact that, in the background, the leaves were fluttering in the wind.”2 These were the originary moments of cinephilia, the moments when the gaze, unconstrained, strayed from the centre of the shot and surrendered itself to the otherness of the screen. Moved by movement, the look felt deliriously liberated. Hence, the common understanding of cinephilia in terms that give corporeality to the experience, as the experience of being “bitten by the cinema”. The viewer’s look to the wind on screen was thought to bite her into the lush openness of love, liberating her sight so as to sweep the majesty of the screen for a glimpse of a shimmering world beyond: “The real hero…” the subject of the lovers’ look to the screen, was ‘the unheralded ripple of physical existence, the tiny morbidly life-worn detail’ that hinted to the possibility of an otherness – to a world not entirely within the frame.3 This, the liberation of the look from its impoverished enslavement and entrapment by the voyeurism of a secular commercial cinema, from a look, in other words, that militantly hinges filmic temporality and spatiality on melodrama’s coordinates of sexual difference, quivers and delights in the movements set in motion by the wind in the cavernous scene between Behzad and Zeynab, forging a bond, an inspired complicity with the film, that is cinephilia otherwise.[Ibid.]

 

Endnotes

  1. Henri Corbin, Mundus Imaginalis or the Imaginary and the Imaginal (1964). Available online at: http://hermetic.com/moorish/mundus-imaginalis.html. Accessed December 8, 2016
  2. Christian M. Keathley, Cinephilia and History or the Wind in the Trees (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006).
  3. Paul Willemen, Looks and Frictions. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press), p. 241.

About The Author

Negar Mottahedeh is a cultural critic and associate professor of literature at Duke University. She specialises in interdisciplinary and feminist contributions to the fields of Middle Eastern Studies and Film and Media Studies.