In Abbas Kiarostami’s latest film, Like Someone in Love, much of what happens, and it isn’t a great deal, is seen through mirrors and glass. The film opens with a long scene in a Tokyo bar where we often view a character through a faded reflection in a door window.
The scene shifts to a taxi where a young college student, Akiko, is being driven to an aging scholar who is her client. She is a call girl trying to earn money to pay for her college education. At least, that is what we are told.
We view her through the car window, the small rear window inside the car, and then the one outside on the door. She is sitting quietly and then tearfully in the back seat listening to the voice mail messages from her grandmother who has come to Tokyo to see her. She tells Akiko that she will be waiting for her next to a statue outside the train station.
The taxi circles the station once, but a small truck blocks the view from the rear-door window. She asks the driver to circle again. This time we glimpse her grandmother, or what we assume to be her grandmother, again through the rear-door window
Akiko arrives at the book-lined apartment of the elderly scholar who says his name is Takashi. She begins looking over the photos, covered in glass frames, of Takashi’s family. They talk for a short while. It is the only time in the film that Akiko becomes the least bit animated.
She claims to be tired and I imagine she has had many sleepless nights arguing with her boyfriend, who claims she is his fiancé. She says she isn’t hungry, doesn’t care for the shrimp soup Takashi has prepared for their meal, and repairs to the bedroom. She throws off her clothes and gets into bed. The ensuing conversation between Takashi and Akiko is viewed through a clouded mirror.
The next day he drives her to school. Once again there is a long scene in a car. After she is dropped off, we view an argument between Akiko and her so so-called boyfriend, Noriaki, from the car.
Akiko breaks away, heads into the building, whereupon the jealous Noriaki comes down to the car to confront Takashi. He is invited into the car and the two begin a friendly conversation, as Takashi lets the young man think he is Akiko’s grandfather.
There is another long drive as Takashi drives Noriaki to work, followed by another, when Takashi returns to rescue Akiko who has fought again with Noriaki. They return to his apartment and the film abruptly ends with yet another scene in which a glass object plays a critical role.
It was only later that I began to understand what Kiarostami is suggesting or might be suggesting, by viewing these individuals and presumably their inner life, from the reflections in the various glass objects that appear so often in the film.
We stand before ourselves in mirrors, we glimpse others through the mirrors they choose to reflect. But rarely do we see beyond the appearances. I am reminded of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in The Republic.
Socrates describes a group of prisoners in a cave who can only observe the shadows cast by the objects passing by outside. Socrates means to suggest that the shadows do not constitute reality, but that is all we are able to glimpse, never the “true form of reality” itself.
There is much deception and evasiveness in Like Someone in Love. Nothing is what we are told or what we are able to see. It is the same theme depicted in Kiarostami’s previous film, Certified Copy, which also spends a fair amount of time in a car, this time driving around Tuscany.
We’re all standing at the windows of our selves and others, glimpsing what we can, and only speculating about the rest, a highly risky endeavor that often ends disagreeably and with considerable misunderstanding.