And Life Goes On (1992)
October 23, 2022 3:16 PM - Subscribe

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.

In the aftermath of the 1990 earthquake in Iran that left fifty thousand dead, Abbas Kiarostami returned to Koker, where his camera surveys not only devastation but also the teeming life in its wake. Blending fiction and reality into a playful, poignant road movie, And Life Goes On follows a film director who, along with his son, makes the trek to the region in hopes of finding out if the young boys who acted in Where Is the Friend’s House? are among the survivors, and discovers a resilient community pressing on in the face of tragedy. Finding beauty in the bleakest of circumstances, Kiarostami crafts a quietly majestic ode to the best of the human spirit.

Jonathan Rosenbaum: The film’s exquisite sense of reality is of course a construction; it’s really nothing more than a profound sense of material presence, a way of placing us as spectators in the middle of an event being reimagined and observed at the same time. Kiarostami’s wonderful feeling for space and duration allows us to enjoy the unique textures of a place and event and gives us plenty of time to reflect on them. The fact that all of this happens to be taking place in Iran may well end up striking us Westerners as secondary; apart from the stark beauty of the terrain, we could just as well be in Miami after the hurricane struck.

Mattie Lucas:The script is reportedly based on interactions Kiarostami had with his on the road to Koker, and yet the film is anything but heavy or tragic. It's a kind of testament to the resilience of the Iranian people, who all seem to be carrying on with life as normal, the earthquake's devastation simply another obstacle to overcome in everyday life. While not a sequel to Where is the Friend's House?, And Life Goes On returns to one of that film's key visual motifs - a zigzag hill leading from Koker to Poshteh that Ahmad must continually cross in order to achieve his goal of finding his friend. This hill comes to represent a kind of Sisyphean task of human existence that the films' characters must overcome nevertheless. There's a kind of playfulness here that belies the seriousness of the task at hand, and yet under Kiarostami's masterful eye the film becomes a sort of wry celebration of the Iranian people's determination to keep going under even the most brutal of circumstances. It never answers its central question, leaving the meat of the story in the journey rather than the destination, a sort of discovery of the self and of the nation on the road to Koker. Life continues, even in the face of great adversity. They go on because they must.

Devika Girish: To a great extent, And Life Goes On critiques the very notion of seeing as a meaningful way of engaging with oneself and the world. Kiarostami has said that for him, the starting point of the film was “someone who only knows how to look.” Ensconced in his car, whose windows often literally map onto the frame of Kiarostami’s camera, the protagonist-filmmaker traverses through the earthquake-struck region with the sole aim of looking—meaning both “observing” and “searching” in the film—while all those around him are engaged in doing: building, rebuilding, carrying, salvaging. Early in the film, as the characters drive toward the countryside, a voice on the car radio says of the victims, “We watch their suffering from afar and share in their great sorrow.” That’s the great ruse: watching as a means of sharing, of knowing; and cinema as a bridge between disparate worlds of experience. It’s a philosophy of film whose brunt is often borne by those forced (in Sembene’s words) to the “outskirts,” who must suffer questions like “Are your films understood in Europe?”

posted by Carillon (2 comments total)
I thought this was more challenging than the first in the Korker trilogy. It's simple, but the opening with the traffic and the driving was nice, but made me keep thinking why do we care. It became very clear through why, generally after they got off the main road. There really is the impression that we're like the father, observing tragedy. At least the father can give people rides up the hill or take their gas tank. I was struck by the imagery of the crushed cars on the side of the road. The policeman keeps saying move through quickly, but the camera lingers. Why are we slowing down, what are we trying to get from observing the tragedy. I loved Puya's love of football, he stays to watch the game, which is I think indicative of the warm humanism the center. Yes, everyone has lost someone, and there is tragedy, but people also are coming together and moving forward, you can't give up your life in mourning I think is what I got from this, and it reinforces the joy in finding connection even in dark moments.
posted by Carillon at 3:24 PM on October 23, 2022

AKA Life, and Nothing More... Currently streaming in the US on Criterion. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:44 PM on October 24, 2022

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