We follow a young schoolboy’s a-day-in-the-life journey in Kiarostami’s simple yet resonating breakthrough film.
Dir. Abbas Kiarostami
1987 | Iran | Drama | 83 mins | 1.66:1 | Persian
Not rated – likely to be PG
Cast: Babek Ahmadpour, Ahmad Ahmadpour, Khodabakhsh Defaei
Plot: An 8-year-old boy must return his friend’s notebook he took by mistake, lest his friend be punished by expulsion from school.
Awards: Won Bronze Leopard, FIPRESCI Prize – Special Mention, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention (Locarno)
International Sales: DreamLab Films
Subject Matter: Easygoing
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
One of the greatest directors to come from Iran, the late Abbas Kiarostami first made his breakthrough with Where Is the Friend’s House?, a film so simple in plotting that you will be surprised how profound and resonating it turns out to be.
As the first film of what is now known loosely as the ‘Koker’ trilogy—the two other pictures being And Life Goes On (1992) and Through the Olive Trees (1994)—Where Is the Friend’s House? follows a young schoolboy, Ahmad, as he desperately seeks to return his friend’s notebook that he had taken by mistake.
If not, his friend will be expelled from class the next day by their teacher for not completing his homework—personal stakes that have been raised incredibly high by Kiarostami in the prologue.
But before Ahmad could do that, he has the difficult task in locating his friend’s house in another town. Kiarostami fashions a-day-in-the-life journey where we follow Ahmad as he runs across one beautiful rural landscape after another on a mission of personal responsibility.
Kiarostami’s eye for the natural contours of the two adjacent towns, particularly the fascinating terrain of mud, grass, sand, slopes and stairs, gives the film a feeling of organicity.
There is nothing forced in the filmmaking, least of all the acting by Babak Ahmadpour who shoulders nearly the entire film. Kiarostami’s work is compelling from the first shot to last, but it is the film’s childlike perspective, one that captures the essence of innocence and friendship that may prove to be the most rewarding.
A sequence involving Ahmad and an old and frail doormaker as they trek through the poorly-lit streets in the night is a priceless take on the passing of time and the value of companionship.