Abbas Kiorastami's Ten

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Shot entirely from the interior of a car by cameras mounted on the dashboard, Ten records a series of private conversations between the driver and her passengers as they ride through the streets of Tehran. Each interaction is segmented into the film’s ten chapters whereby Kiarostami constructs an elliptical narrative centered on the driver, a newly remarried divorcee, as she questions her understanding of love relationships, morals, and personal fulfillment through the subsequent interactions with her son and the women she encounters.

Kiarostami’s unconventional cinematic techniques create an intimate mise-en-scène and improvisational atmosphere that provides a rare insight into the diverse experiences, perspectives and emotions of Middle Eastern women at various junctures in their lives and who represent a socioeconomic cross-section of Iranian society. From the bourgeois protagonist with feminist inclinations, her sister who is abandoned by her husband of seven years, the friend rejected by her fiancé, a piously devout elderly woman, and a prostitute, Ten illuminates the abundance of ways morals, relationships and the qualities of human nature are conceived in relation to the specific context from which those understandings are derived. Love relationships, religion, personal identity, and cultural values are not static but are constantly negotiated to address changing circumstances. Kiarostami thus highlights the dynamic features of Iranian society through the daily struggles of women in an Islamic culture and their latitude in determining their level of modesty, social mobility, and adherence to cultural restrictions.

While Ten contains references to the social and political regulations regarding the status of wome...

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...ransformations of Iranian society during the 1970s.This can be viewed as something akin to what James Gelvin referred to as the “cross-fertilization of ideas” used by Islamic modernists in the early twentieth century who argued that the incorporation of certain elements of Western culture and modernity could be reconciled with Islamic practice through the application of ijtihad. This tradition of cultural appropriation and reconceptualization to fit the ends determined by Iranians (other Middle Eastern societies) is thus a modern continuation of long-standing historical practices of adapting to broader international developments.

Works Cited

Mania Akbari, “Chapter 10,” Ten, directed by Abbas Kiarostami (2002: Tehran, Iran/France: Zeitgeist Films, 2003).

James L. Gelvin, “The Modern Middle East: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 136-139.
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