Like Someone In Love (2013) – Visual and Emotional Reflections.

This article contains spoilers.

For a film named after a jazz standard, Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone In Love (2012) plays very little with the notion or question of music and sound. Recalling the film only brings to mind one scene where music is used as a narrative ploy while the rest of it is more occupied with something more visually typical. This perhaps begs a questioning as to why Kiarostami names the film after a song. Could it perhaps have lyrical parallels or maybe something extra-musical in either the song’s or Kiarostami’s past? The first option sounds more plausible and works well with the main theme that appears to be given precedent; that of reflection.

A Visual Reflection.

Though this writer has only seen two full feature films by Kiarostami, the sense of visual reflection becomes apparent almost instantly as a directorial trait (surprising for a director whose supposed trait is to not have any that pass over between films). In both Certified Copy (2010) and Like Someone In Love, the reflection is used a visual to question a number of the character’s emotional problems. Like Someone In Love follows the two day friendship of Akiko (Rin Takanashi) and Takashi (Tadashi Okuno). The former is a young student who has resorted to escorting for money and the latter is her latest elderly client who is an academic.

Set in the neon metropolis of Tokyo, it could be predicted that reflection would be used as a visual cue. With its endless supply of reflective surfaces and bright lights, it seems almost cliché to shoot Tokyo at night, making the most of the patterns and lights bouncing off the moving windows. For Like Someone In Love it seems entirely appropriate. Though the character’s relationship seems desperate and rather uncomfortable on paper, their obvious warm-heartedness allows the visual and emotional reflection to occur.

Akiko’s taxi drive to Takashi’s apartment in particular stands out. For obvious reasons, the character is nervous and worried. She has no idea who this person is that she is visiting, only that he is well respected by her boss. As the visual reflection shows the imprint of passing Tokyo, it can’t help but situate Akiko as trapped. She knows this only too well, deliberately lengthening her taxi journey . A lesser director would lengthen it to make the most of the visual candy but Kiarostami’s extended trip intends to place the character in the visual negative. Her situation, by any modern standards is appalling but not uncommon. The lights reflected of the outside world shows her in a desperate financial and (soon to be shown later) emotional position but deliberately place her trapped and away. It’s such a powerful aesthetic and subtle piece of character building that its used on the main promotional poster but this is only the first of a number of questioning ideas.

An Emotional Reflection.

More visuals of reflection in windows and mirrors occur throughout Like Someone In Love, but the majority of them later on tend to play off the obvious emotional reflection that the characters are going through. The budding friendship between the two main characters leads both to very clearly question their position and their current choices. Takashi doesn’t sleep with Akiko but instead adopts a more parental role in their two day relationship. This comes to the fore at the introduction of Akiko’s possessive and emotionally unstable boyfriend, Noriaki (Ryo Kase).

The reflection for Akiko comes out in conversations on another car journey, this time to her college. Again the visual of reflection is showing the outside world around them but this time, their separation from it is almost desired. The questions arising from this conversation come from Akiko’s current relationship and the reflection is something that cannot help but escape outwards. The lyrical tie-in to the film’s title begins (or at least already has begun with the song briefly playing diegetically in the background at Takashi’s flat) as Akiko is clearly not acting “Like someone in love”. The original song lyrics refer to someone dazed by their own feelings for someone else, almost to the point of being taken to another metaphysical place:

Lately I find myself out gazing at stars
Hearing guitars like someone in love
Sometimes the things I do astound me
Mostly whenever you’re around me

Lately I seem to walk as though I had wings
Bump into things like someone in love
Each time I look at you, I’m limp as a glove
And feeling like someone in love

Lately I seem to walk as though I had wings
I bump into things like someone in love
Each time I look at you, I’m limp as a glove
And feeling like someone in love.

Akiko is indeed reflecting within this dazed state but it is not a pleasurable place, rather a confused one. The title of the film is therefore ironic, at least in the context of Akiko’s feelings and her social position. With the forced presence of Noriaki, falling for the ploy that Takashi is in fact her grandfather and not her client, all at first seems to fit into a comfortable norm. Any reflection is hidden and the visuals again lock themselves within a travelling (but soon to break down) car.

The pressure of the film gradually increases as its gets closer to its final moments. Nosy neighbours and a now knowing Takashi are putting the two friends in some kind of danger. The emphasis on reflection moves away from the film, it being an impossibility in the current situation. The final shot seems fitting then for a film breaking away from its reflective space. Hiding back at Takashi’s flat, Akiko’s boyfriend is angry and trying to get at the pair after finding out the initial situation that brought about their relationship.

For so long, the film has shown a constant reflection in the windows and glass of cars and buildings. How fitting then for the final action to be the breaking of Takashi’s window with a stone. There is no more chance for reflection, visually or emotionally. The characters must all now face their situations head-on, within the present and with little time left for reflection.

Like Someone In Love is released on DVD by New Wave films on the 14th of October.

Adam Scovell

2 thoughts on “Like Someone In Love (2013) – Visual and Emotional Reflections.

  1. Kiarostami had an unique approach to the music in his movies. Mostly he saw it as something that can distract the attention and he always tried to minimize cinematic tools in his movies so he removed music from some of his movies. Once he wanted to use the music as an element, he did it very well, I’d recommend you to watch ‘Taste of Cherry’ and see how he added one of Louis Armstrong track in his movie.

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