Hossain Sabzian is found and arrested at the home of the Ahankhah family after they realize that he’s not famous Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf as he had previously told them. They decide to take him to court and Sabzian is charged with fraud. Director Abbas Kiarostami hears of this trial and finds the story fascinating, so he heads to the courts to film. Kiarostami blends fiction with reality as he recruits the actual participants of this encounter to recreate some of the events that led to the trial while also filming new events as they happen.
A favourite of filmmakers and critics alike, Close-Up has great style and an unusual manner of revealing details, but it’s definitely a film that appeals to those interested in the study of film and not for a general audience.
With Kiarostami blending recreations with reality, it always feels like Close-Up is trying to reveal a truth while simultaneously avoiding it. This is what makes the film interesting and frustrating at the same time. Using the actual people who were a part of this event makes the film feel like everybody is trying to hide something a little bit. The family doesn’t want to look bad and has issues with how they were portrayed in the story that Kiarostami originally read about, while Sabzian has already proven himself to be so obsessed with film that you have to wonder if he’s simply playing a new role.
As frustrating as all of that is, it’s also endlessly fascinating. Sabzian wants to be anybody but himself and claims that he never intended to take any money from the Ahankhah family, while one of the Ahankhah sons also has an interest in film, creating another kind of fraud in the process. Sabzian wasn’t who he claimed, which leads the family to fraud charges, but they were also very interested in using this new connection when they believed Sabzian was Makhmalbaf. It’s a case of everybody using everybody else for something and Close-Up becomes a study in motivation. It’s just that it also becomes a bit confusing in the process.