Abbas Kiarostami blurs drama and documentary in this semi-autobiographical road movie. Info
In 1990, an earthquake devastated the area around the farming village of Koker in Iran, killing 50,000 people, including 20,000 children. In the hope of finding the two young boys from the area who acted in his acclaimed 1987 feature Where Is The Friend’s House?, director Abbas Kiarostami embarked on a difficult journey by car to the region with his own 11-year-old son, Bahman. When he later told an audience in Germany about the trek, someone suggested that he turn the story into a film. Kiarostami returned to Koker and began shooting 1992's And Life Goes On (a.k.a. Life, and Nothing More), with two nonprofessional actors playing characters who clearly stand in for himself and his son.
Kiarostami’s semi-autobiographical, self-referential film plunges us directly into the quest of an unnamed film director (portrayed by economist Farhad Kheradmand) and his young son, Pouya (Pouya Payvar, son of the film’s cinematographer, Homayoun Payvar). Initially, And Life Goes On offers no information about the purpose of their mission. As we travel along with them toward the stricken area, the father and son discuss topics ranging from cement to grasshoppers. Despite being a reenactment, And Life Goes On feels completely realistic in every detail. The fissured roads, collapsed buildings, and broken bridges are all authentic remnants of the natural disaster, and Kiarostami even invited survivors to play themselves. Amid destruction, despair and desperation, Kiarostami captures the beauty of simple pleasures and small acts of kindness. He finds solace and meaning in everyday life, while exalting the perseverance and indomitable spirit of those who survived the catastrophe. His camera occasionally lingers over the region’s lush, idyllic natural scenery to the accompaniment of Vivaldi’s Concerto For 2 Horns. These interludes elegantly reinforce the film’s theme of new life.
Among Kiarostami’s most poetic, multilayered, complex, and compassionate creations, And Life Goes On deftly interweaves fact with fiction as it blurs the boundaries between drama and documentary. The second installment in what critics later designated the Koker Trilogy, Kiarostami’s experimental humanist road movie easily stands on its own. Taken together, the three works reveal a marvelously rich tapestry of Iranian life, while guiding us on a gently mind-bending, metacinematic odyssey into the heart of “reality.” And Life Goes On will be preceded here by Kiarostami’s rarely seen 1978 short film Solution. —Jason Fuhrman