Friday, December 14, 2007

Forgotten VHS #4- Kiarostami's "Life and Nothing More..."

A great film to introduce people to the director and also one of his best films, Abbas Kiarostami’s Life and Nothing More... is a critically essential film that is stuck, for the time being, on VHS. While many people consider the lure of Iranian cinema an acquired taste (who doesn’t love slow moving allegories?), this film is more approachable for those unfamiliar with the director or the region, but also provides key insights into how the struggles of daily life combine with cinematic “storytelling.”

The second part of his Koker trilogy (comprised of Where is the Friend’s Home, Life and Nothing More..., and Through The Olive Trees), Life and Nothing More... follows a father and son as they travel through Iran to find the two boys who starred in Where is the Friend’s Home after an earthquake hit the region in 1990. Kiarostami constantly blends fact with fiction, and intersperses documentary elements with those of traditional narratives. Those qualities and obsessions are no more clearly identifiable than in this film. An earthquake really did hit Iran in 1990 and killed almost 30,000 people, so Kiarostami’s desire to find the boys is a real one. Still, the journey through the devastated areas shifts Kiarostami’s focus into an attempt to comprehend the complexities of life. The film finishes with an incredible final shot that represents the uphill battle that the anyone has when faced with obstacles and is, in many ways, an attempt to redefine the things that humans find most important.

The video quality may be poor, as it was on my viewing, but even that cannot hold back the visceral power of this film. Kiarostami has made many great films (Close Up and Taste of Cherry are definite masterpieces. The Wind Will Carry Us is also really worth seeing), but Life and Nothing More... is equally as impressive and an incredibly undervalued and under-seen film in Kiarostami’s vital oeuvre.

by James Hansen

*Editor’s Note*
YouTube Video Warning: This is the only video I could find and is, in fact, the last 8:38 of the film. Although it gives away nothing in terms of plot (as there isn’t really a traditional plot to be found) I felt like this should be mentioned for those who want to hold out to see the end in the context it needs for full appreciation. Watching this certainly won’t ruin the movie at all (otherwise I would not add it) but I want to protect the die hards who are already on Ebay looking for this VHS.

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