Surfaces of desire: a portrait of the cinematic experience based on shirin

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A film contains signs of its director’s intentionality, determining what spectators can see and hear, but also what is kept hidden from their senses. This entails an idealised conception of the film’s reception based on those decisions, decisively influencing the viewer’s relationship with the film and the level of engagement with it. The evocation of desires, frustrations and tensions in the individual and collective lives of spectators creates an opportunity to deal with, confront or even resolve real-life issues through the cinematic experience. Thus, in its signifying nature, a film contains the polysemy necessary for new pathways to be revealed for the film and for those who experience it with each viewing. Shirin (Abbas Kiarostami, 2008) is a paradigmatic work for this inquiry into the processes and impacts inherent in film reception. Combining the soundtrack of a mythological tale and the performance of spectators (actresses) who relate emotionally to the narrative, Shirin offers an open journey through the ghosts of the implicit and explicit realities of its protagonists. Based on an analysis of Kiarostami’s film, this article aims to identify and relate different aspects, proximities and distances that comprise the complexity and personal involvement of watching a film, exploring the film screen and spectators as sensory surfaces where the codes for unveiling unfulfilled desires emerge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-175
Number of pages14
Issue number32
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Experience
  • Face
  • Film: Spectator
  • Kiarostami
  • Reception
  • Screen
  • Shirin


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