Close-Up (1990)

Brief Intro

“Close-Up” is a 1990 Iranian film directed by Abbas Kiarostami that blends documentary and fiction to tell the story of Hossain Sabzian, a man who impersonates the famous filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. The film delves into themes of identity, reality, and the nature of filmmaking, offering a profound commentary on human nature and societal norms.

Literary Devices Used in Close-Up


Metafiction is a literary device where the story comments on itself or the conventions of storytelling.

Movie SceneDevice Example
Courtroom scenes where real and fictional elements blendThe blending of documentary and fiction comments on the nature of storytelling.
The final scene where Sabzian meets MakhmalbafThe merging of reality and performance underscores the metafictional theme.


Irony is the expression of meaning using language that normally signifies the opposite.

Movie SceneDevice Example
Sabzian’s impersonation of MakhmalbafThe irony of Sabzian gaining respect through deception highlights societal values.
The courtroom’s serious treatment of the impersonationThe juxtaposition of the trivial act and the serious legal process emphasizes irony.


Symbolism is the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities.

Movie SceneDevice Example
The use of the clapperboard in the courtroomSymbolizes the intersection of film and reality.
Sabzian’s fascination with cinemaRepresents the power of art to transform and escape reality.


An allegory is a narrative that serves as an extended metaphor.

Movie SceneDevice Example
Sabzian’s trialRepresents the larger societal judgment on individual identity and authenticity.
The blending of real people playing themselvesServes as an allegory for the blurred lines between reality and fiction.


Juxtaposition is placing two elements side by side to highlight their differences.

Movie SceneDevice Example
The wealthy Ahankhah family and Sabzian’s povertyHighlights the social and economic disparities.
Real and reenacted scenes in the filmEmphasizes the blurred lines between reality and fiction.


Foreshadowing is a literary device used to hint at future events.

Movie SceneDevice Example
Early conversations about cinemaHints at the pivotal role film will play in Sabzian’s life.
Sabzian’s admiration for MakhmalbafForeshadows his eventual impersonation.


A motif is a recurring element that has symbolic significance.

Movie SceneDevice Example
Recurrent references to cinema and filmmakingReinforces the film’s exploration of art and reality.
Repeated shots of Sabzian aloneEmphasizes his isolation and yearning for connection.


A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another.

Movie SceneDevice Example
Sabzian as a director of his own lifeHis impersonation acts as a metaphor for directing one’s own narrative.
The courtroom as a stageRepresents the performative nature of societal roles.


A paradox is a statement that contradicts itself but reveals a truth.

Movie SceneDevice Example
Sabzian’s lie leading to truthHis deception reveals deeper truths about identity and reality.
The film as both a documentary and fictionThe paradoxical nature challenges the audience’s perception of truth.


Realism is the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully.

Movie SceneDevice Example
Actual trial footageEnhances the film’s authenticity and emotional impact.
Interviews with real peopleAdds depth and credibility to the narrative.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Character Studies

Hossain Sabzian

MetaphorSabzian as the director of his life, illustrating control and manipulation.
JuxtapositionHis poverty contrasted with the Ahankhah family’s wealth highlights his desires and societal divisions.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf

SymbolismRepresents the idealized figure of the artist in Iranian society.
IronyThe respect he commands juxtaposed with Sabzian’s deceptive admiration highlights differing perceptions of worth.

Character Dynamics

The relationship between Sabzian and the Ahankhah family serves as a microcosm of broader societal dynamics. Through juxtaposition, the film highlights economic disparities, and through irony, it underscores the complexities of respect and identity. The evolving dynamics also explore themes of trust and deception, amplified by metafiction as real people reenact their own lives.

Thematic Analysis

Identity and Deception

AllegorySabzian’s impersonation as a larger commentary on personal and societal identity.
MetaphorThe trial as a metaphor for societal judgment on authenticity and identity.

Reality vs. Fiction

MetafictionThe blending of real and reenacted scenes challenges the viewer’s perception of reality.
ParadoxThe film’s simultaneous documentary and fictional nature highlights the fluid boundaries between truth and fiction.

Power of Art

SymbolismCinema as a symbol for transformation and escape.
MotifRecurrent references to filmmaking underscore art’s impact on life.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
MetafictionReal footageEnhances the blending of documentary and fiction.
IronyJuxtaposition of shotsContrasts serious legal processes with the triviality of the act.
SymbolismClose-upsEmphasize symbolic elements like the clapperboard.
AllegoryNaturalistic actingReinforces the allegorical themes of identity and judgment.
JuxtapositionEditingHighlights disparities and contrasting elements within the film.
ForeshadowingDialogueEarly conversations hint at future events and developments.
MotifRepeated imageryReinforces recurring themes and ideas.
MetaphorVisual metaphorsVisual storytelling enhances metaphorical elements.
ParadoxBlended narrativeChallenges conventional storytelling to reveal deeper truths.
RealismHandheld camera workAdds authenticity and immediacy to the narrative.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene Selection

  1. Sabzian’s Arrest Scene: YouTube Link
    • Breakdown: This scene captures the tension and absurdity of Sabzian’s arrest, using irony and realism to highlight societal contradictions and personal desperation.
  2. Courtroom Confession Scene: YouTube Link
    • Breakdown: Sabzian’s confession in court is a powerful moment where metafiction and allegory intertwine, revealing the complex interplay between identity, truth, and performance.
  3. Final Scene with Makhmalbaf: YouTube Link
    • Breakdown: The meeting between Sabzian and Makhmalbaf blends metaphor and symbolism, illustrating the culmination of Sabzian’s journey and the film’s thematic exploration of reality and art.


Interactive Quiz

Test your knowledge of the literary devices in “Close-Up” with this fun quiz!

  1. What device blends real and fictional elements in “Close-Up”?
  2. Which character is used as a metaphor for directing one’s own life?
    • A) Hossain Sabzian
    • B) Mohsen Makhmalbaf
    • C) Ahankhah family member
    • D) Court Judge
  3. What device is highlighted by the courtroom scenes?
  4. Which theme is explored through the motif of filmmaking?
    • A) Love
    • B) Power of Art
    • C) Justice
    • D) Revenge

Answers: 1) B, 2) A, 3) C, 4) B