[Writer’s note: Certified Copy is best seen cold. However, discussion of it requires spoiling elements. If you have not seen it yet, do not read this piece. Just know that the film is incredible.]
If I remind him of that walk along the Via Nazionale he says he remembers it, but I know he is lying and that he remembers nothing; and I sometimes ask myself if it was us, these two people, almost twenty years ago on the Via Nazionale, two people who conversed so politely, so urbanely, as the sun was setting; who chatted a little about everything perhaps and about nothing; two friends talking, two young intellectuals out for a walk; so young, so educated, so uninvolved, so ready to judge one another with kind impartiality; so ready to say goodbye to one another forever, as the sun set, at the corner of the street.—Natalia Ginzburg, He and I
A man and a woman stop in a café. They’re perfect strangers or just-acquaintances, and having a perfectly good time. Then the man tells a joke that the woman doesn’t enjoy. She starts crying, and the man conveniently gets up to take a phone call outside. A waitress asks the woman what’s wrong, and the woman describes the problems that arise once you’ve been married for 15 years. When the man comes back inside, we no longer know the nature of their relationship. They laugh at the absurdity of the thought of being married, only to argue eventually over whether he’s neglected her and the kid.
This is the point during Certified Copy when a lot of viewers check out, the spot where it shifts from a funny, sunny jaunt through Italy to a rom-com version of Persona. But Abbas Kiarostami’s new movie has been preparing us for this moment all along. The two people are simultaneously playing the new couple and the old one, plus the actors playing them. The dissolution of personal identity is merely the last goal of Kiarostami’s overall project in this film, which is to dissolve the line between copy and original altogether.