And Life Goes On (Zendegi va digar hich)

Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Screenplay: Abbas Kiarostami
Stars: Farhad Kheradmand (Film Director), Pouya Payvar (Pouya), Hossein Rezai (Hossein)
MPAA Rating: NR
Year of Release: 1992
Country: Iran
And Life Goes On Criterion Collection Blu-ray
And Life Goes On

Abbas Kiarostami’s And Life Goes On (aka Life, and Nothing More …), the second film in his “Koker Trilogy,” follows, builds on, and reveals the fiction of his earlier film Where is the Friend’s House? (1987). Like his previous film, Close-up (1990), it works as a self-conscious deconstruction of the cinema itself, uncovering in ways both subtle and overt how movies are fictions that nevertheless help us recognize fundamental truths. Kiarostami had started his career making documentaries in the 1970s, so he was steeped in that tradition before he moved into fictional features, many of which bore the aesthetic traces and ideological preoccupations of his time making nonfiction films. Where is the Friend’s House, which unfolds over a 24-hour period, follows in neorealist fashion a young boy trying to return a schoolmate’s notebook lest he be expelled the next day. It is about seemingly insignificant instances in a single life, yet it carries a deep, profound humanistic insight and sense of fundamental decency.

Kiarostami shot the film in and around the village of Koker, which in 1990 was hit by the devastating Manjil-Rudbar earthquake, which killed anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 people and left entire villages in ruins, including Koker. And Life Goes On tells the fictionalized story of Kiarostami’s return to Koker in the immediate aftermath of the quake to find out what happened to the children who starred in Where is the Friend’s House?. Farhad Kheradmand plays an unnamed film director who, along with his young son Pouya (Pouya Payvar), drives from Tehran into Northern Persia, the epicenter of the quake, trying to get to Koker—or what remains of it. Along the way they must traverse broken and closed roads, miles and miles of rubble, and thousands of men, women, and children who have been displaced by the disaster.

Like Where is the Friend’s House, the film unfolds over a single day. The director and his son’s journey is punctuated regularly by frustration as they find it impossible to get where they are going due to the devastation, but it is also peppered with glimpses and insights into the people who were affected by the disaster, including an elderly woman who gives them directions, a newly married man (who will become the subject of Kiarastomi’s final film in the trilogy, Through the Olive Trees), a young man setting up a TV antennae so the others in the hastily constructed tent village can watch the World Cup, and a local man who played a central role in Where is the Friend’s House. The director’s interactions with this man give the film its most direct commentary on the nature of filmmaking, as he complains about how he was depicted in the previous film, specifically how he was given a humpback and made to look much older than he was. The film is replete with imagery that similarly comments on the nature of filmmaking, as Kiarostami juxtaposes a handheld, documentary-like aesthetic with images that are carefully composed and constructed, such as the long shot of a hillside that has been cracked open in numerous places by the quakes, the vertical lines of broken earth looking like nothing so much as tears streaming down the grass.

The film director’s interactions with the people whose paths he crosses paint a complex portrait of human suffering, dignity, and perseverance. At times we acutely feel the horrors of the disaster, as Kiarostami’s camera tracks across seemingly endless vistas of collapsed buildings along the side of the road. At other times, we are surprised by the resilience of the people hardest hit, as they do their best to reclaim whatever joys they can from the rubble around them. As the young man putting up the TV antennae says, “Life goes on,” neatly summarizing the film’s central theme without sinking into a mire of clichés. The nonchalant manner in which he says it and the film director’s innate understanding of how he and the others find solace in international soccer (as does his young son) puts into sharp relief the complex nature of human response to tragedy. Kiarostami never shortchanges the enormity of the earthquake’s devastation, but his goal is not to wallow in what has been lost, but to seek out what still survives and cherish it, which is why the film centers on the search for the child actors. The possibility of finding them safe and alive provides the silver lining of hope that makes life worth continuing.

And Life Goes On Criterion Collection Blu-ray
The Koker Trilogy Blu-ray BoxsetAnd Life Goes On is available as part of “The Koker Trilogy” boxset, which also includes Where is the Friend’s House? (1987) and Through the Olive Trees (1994).
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 (all three films)
AudioPersian Linear PCM 1.0 monaural (all three films)
SupplementsWhere is the Friend’s House?
  • Homework (1989), a feature-length documentary by Kiarostami
  • Conversation from 2015 between Kiarostami and programmer Peter Scarlet
  • And Life Goes On
  • Audio commentary by Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa and Jonathan Rosenbaum, coauthors of Abbas Kiarostami
  • Abbas Kiarostami: Truths and Dreams (1994) documentary
  • Video interview with scholar Hamid Naficy
  • Through the Olive Trees
  • Video interview with director Kiarostami’s son Ahmad Kiarostami
  • Conversation between scholar Jamsheed Akrami and critic Godfrey Cheshire
  • DistributorThe Criterion Collection
    Release DateAugust 27, 2019

    All three films in “The Koker Trilogy” have been given new high-definition transfers made from the original 35mm camera negatives (Where is the Friend’s House? and And Life Goes On were transferred in 2K, while Through the Olive Trees was transferred in 4K). Of the three films, Where is the Friend’s House? is the only one to show any signs of wear and tear, as a number of scenes have vertical damage down the righthand side of the frame. It is never terribly intrusive and clearly could not be corrected without introducing additional artifacting into the image. It is primarily evidence of how Kiarostami’s films were probably not being treated and stored with the level of care they are now because he was not yet an international name in world cinema. The image still looks good otherwise, with strong detail and contrast and plenty of lively film grain. The same can be said for And Life Goes On and Through the Olive Trees, both of which look slightly sharper and more polished. The monaural soundtracks for the first two films in the trilogy were transferred from the 35mm soundtrack negatives, while the soundtrack for Through the Olive Trees was transferred from the 35mm magnetic tracks. All were digitally restored and sound fine.

    The supplementary material spread across the three discs in the set is quite impressive. On Where is the Friend’s House? we have Abbas Kiarostami’s feature-length 1989 documentary Homework, which has been transferred from the original 16mm negative. In the film, Kiarostami interviews parents and their children at the Martyr Masumi Grade School in Tehran. The disc also contains a 2015 interview with Kiarostami by film programmer Peter Scarlet that was recorded in Toronto (a year before Kiarostami passed away). The And Life Goes On disc includes an informative new audio commentary by Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa and Jonathan Rosenbaum, who together wrote Abbas Kiarostami, which was just published in an expanded second edition in 2018. Through the commentary they offer lucid insights into the film’s style and its place in Kiarostami’s career. Also on the disc is Abbas Kiarostami: Truths and Dreams, a nearly hour-long documentary from 1994 by Jean-Pierre Limosin that was originally broadcast on French television as an episode of Cinema, de noire temps. Finally, there is a 15-minute interview with Hamid Naficy, author of A Social History of Iranian Cinema in which she talks about Kiarostami’s place in the “New Iranian Cinema.” The third disc in the set, Through the Olive Trees, features a 15-minute interview with the director’s son, Ahmad Kiarostami, who offers personal insight about his father’s experiences making the films in the Koker Trilogy, and a 20-minute conversation between Iranian film scholar and documentarian Jamsheed Akrami and film critic Godfrey Cheshire, who recently published an anthology of interviews titled Conversations With Kiarostami (2019).

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    Overall Rating: (3.5)

    James Kendrick

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