The late Abbas Kiarostami was a true visionary, responsible for some of the most powerful and thought-provoking cinema of the last four decades. He continues to pursue new ways of expressing himself in 24 Frames, but sadly this is one experiment too far.
The concept is simple and formulaic: Kiarostami takes existing images – many of which are from his own photography – and extends them, adding video before or after that fixed point in time. It’s a typically intriguing question Kiarostami poses, but his answer is too unadventurous. The opening example, an animated version of the painting Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel, is a joyous novelty, but from then onwards his visual digressions become safer and more repetitive. There are only so many times you can watch a variation on a snowy landscape speckled with bustling animals before it puts you to sleep.
There are a few wry examples – for example, what appears to be a dead cow by a rising tide, which eventually stands and walks off – but mostly Kiarostami offers little to argue that these photographs are better as videos.
As an academic exercise there are points of interest. Watching a fixed frame for so long makes you really examine how the shot was constructed. It’s also interesting to see these photos turned into mini-narratives, but they’re hardly full of plot or drama. Little links them besides a recurrence of animal communities and snowy landscapes.
24 Frames drags for five minutes for each of its 24 ‘frames’, choking its simple concept into a torturous two-hour slog. If it lasted for one minute per frame it might be a fun curio, but in its current shape all you need to know about how well it holds one’s interest is that our screening shed about five people per frame.
DIRECTOR: Abbas Kiarostami
SYNOPSIS: Beginning with the observation that painters capture only one frame of reality and nothing before or after, Kiarostami uses his own photography and imagines what might have taken place before or after each image.