Extraordinary docu-fictive filmmaking by Kiarostami as the second part of his ‘Koker’ trilogy brings us to the aftermath of the devastating 1990 Manjil-Rudbar earthquake via a skillfully deceptive meta-cinematic device.
Dir. Abbas Kiarostami
1992 | Iran | Drama | 95 mins | 1.66:1 | Persian
Not rated (likely to be PG)
Cast: Farhad Kheradmand, Buba Bayour, Hossein Rezai
Plot: A director and his son return to a region damaged by the Guilan earthquake, hoping to find the children who appeared in his film a few years earlier.
Awards: Official Selection (Cannes)
Source: DreamLab Films
Subject Matter: Moderate – Human Condition, Meta-Cinema
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse
Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
My admiration for Abbas Kiarostami continues with the second part of his ‘Koker’ trilogy, entitled And Life Goes On, which he made after arguably his greatest accomplishment, Close-Up (1990). Although Close-Up is not part of the trilogy, it very much informs the meta-cinematic sleigh-of-hand that the Iranian director has employed, even though it is far less explicit here.
On the pretext of finding the boys who starred in Where Is the Friend’s House? (1987), the first film in the trilogy, a filmmaker and his son try to enter the Koker region (the site of that movie) very much devastated by the 1990 Manjil-Rudbar earthquake.
Hoping to ascertain that they are still alive, Kiarostami through his ‘proxy’ brings us deep into the land of undulating hills only to encounter heavy traffic that stretches for miles due to the chaos of rescue efforts, tonnes of rubble over what would have been the homes of many Iranians who tragically lost their lives, survivors who roam the few roads that exist, carrying a gas tank here, a makeshift lavatory there.
“I lost my little sister and three nieces and nephews. But what can we do? The World Cup comes once every four years, and life goes on.”
Temporary tents have been sporadically erected, and so are patches dug in the ground where loved ones are buried. It’s an anguishing sight, yet as the title already asserts, life goes on.
And this is where Kiarostami’s work reaches a level of artistic poetry rarely embraced with this much sensitivity—through trademark car rides with strangers as well as conversations with survivors along the journey, the film blends documentary with fiction, and real-life people with their ‘characters’ and ‘homes’.
What emerges out of what might be lies and half-truths is a greater Truth about the human condition. We witness the unbroken spirit of a community of survivors; wry smiles from children hoping to watch the 1990 World Cup even as they mourn their late brothers and sisters; the sheer pastoral beauty of the Iranian land even if it has been blemished by falling boulders and cracked grounds.