By Don Simpson | January 18, 2012
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Writer: Abbas Kiarostami
Starring: Juliette Binoche, William Shimell, Jean-Claude Carrière, Agathe Natanson, Gianna Giachetti, Adrian Moore, Angelo Barbagallo, Andrea Laurenzi, Filippo Trojano, Manuela Balsinelli
An unnamed woman (Juliette Binoche) attends a book reading in Italy by an art historian, James Miller (William Shimell). He reads from the new Italian edition (a copy) of his hyper-intellectualized book — which, it is important to note, was originally written and published in English — about the difference between original art and its copies. Specifically: What difference does it make? Fascinated by James’ theories, but distracted by her antsy son (Adrian Moore), the woman leaves the address of her antiquities shop for James to meet with her at a later date.
James arrives at the woman’s dark and cavernous shop. James has absolutely no interest in what the woman is selling, he just wants to enjoy a coffee and some conversation. So they drive to a remote little village near Arezzo. Their conversation during the drive leads us to believe that the revered Iranian writer-director Abbas Kiarostami intends to play with James’ theories on fakery and authenticity, all the while channeling the philosophy of Walter Benjamin. Soon, the duo assumes the facade of a married couple. Or are they a married a couple shedding the facade of strangers who met by happenstance? The only truth is that the woman and James’ relationship can be defined as a replica and an original. Which part of the relationship is the replica and which is the original? The duo’s intellectually devious conversations provide us with valid clues and red herrings (for example, the characters purport to share a history together); but, in the end, the reality is whatever the viewer opts to choose.
Kiarostami (via cinematographer Luca Bigazzi) utilizes very precise framing in order to play with the off-screen space; in doing so, he simultaneously solidifies the traditional three walls of the cinema while totally shattering the fourth. This Brechtian technique makes audience increasingly aware that this is a film — a mere representation of reality. Kiarostami is informing us that he is choosing exactly what we are privy to see and hear, thus allowing us to come to our own conclusions about what he is withholding from us. Along those same lines, Certified Copy also plays as an academic discussion on the communication (and communication breakdowns) between men and women; specifically, which messages are chosen to be recognized and which are ignored.