Where Is The Friend’s Home? (1987) خانه دوست کجاست

Country: Iran
Languange: Persian
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Running Time: 83 minutes
Starring: Babek Ahmed Poor, Ahmed Ahmed Poor, Kheda Barech Defai, Iran Outari, Ait Ansari

Theme: Culture (Friendship)

Ratings: IMDb.com: 7.8/10 | Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

Film Festivals:
1987 Fajr Film Festival
1989 Locarno International Film Festival

Awards:
1987 Fajr Film Festival: Golden Plate for Best Director / Special Jury Award
1989 Locarno International Film Festival: Bronze Leopard / FIPRESCI Prize – Special Mention / Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention

Nominations:
1989 Locarno International Film Festival: Golden Leopard

Where Is The Friend’s Home? (1987) by Abbas Kiarostami is considered the first film in Kiarostami’s Koker trilogy, which also includes follow-ups such as And Life Goes On (1992) and Through the Olive Trees (1994). But the director has also claimed that it might be better to take Taste of Cherry (1997) as the third film whilst omitting Where Is The Friend’s Home? because of the running narrative theme of “the preciousness of life” (Cheshire, 1999).

The film is deceptively boring yet intelligently simple. It tells the story of a young boy, Ahmed, who travels from Koker, a rural town of Iran, to a neighboring village to return the notebook of a schoolmate, Reda, that he had accidentally picked up by mistake. Ahmed deems this act important because his friend had been harshly reprimanded earlier on in the day because of not doing his homework on the notebook as it was in the hands of another classmate. The teacher threatens to expel Reda, who promptly burst into tears at the unfairness of the situation. It is not as if he did not complete his homework – he merely did it on loose sheets of paper that could very well have been pasted back into his notebook after all. This thereby creates an unsettling scene as Kiarostami plants Ahmed, who sits next to Reda within a few frames as well, thus capturing his uneasiness at the situation amid a sense of not knowing how to react to console Reda. Thus lies the root of the title of the movie, as the conscientious schoolboy sneaks out of home alone, for the first time, and attempts to search for Reda’s home.

Kiarostami’s movie is very affective, as there is nothing more that can capture one’s attention and draw the viewer in other than the raw emotions of a young child. You cannot help but root for Ahmed in his quest to fulfill his the sense of civic duty, and to uphold the basic loyalty one should have for a good friend. Adults here are portrayed in a bad light in the movie which acts as a very good social commentary of how Iran might be at that point of time. Adults are portrayed as strait-laced single-minded people who are, to say the least, unreasonable. The teacher is hypocritical and exercises double standard, himself not fulfilling the duties of a teacher and arriving late for class. Yet, unless punctuality is not a virtue that is condoned in the Iranian society, he turns a blind eye on the student that arrives later than him. How would this impart the correct moral values into the young children? Further, Ahmed’s mother is unwilling to listen to reason, even when Reda had willingly lent his notebook to Ahmed in the first place – which morally and rightfully gives Ahmed the impetus to ensure the notebook is returned to Reda. She even says at one point in time, “Serves him right. He deserves to be expelled.” Thankfully, the innocent children tend to be the most self-righteous in their actions (yet another similarity could be drawn to Tietou in Tian Zhuangzhuang’s 1993 film The Blue Kite). In the middle of the movie, we see Ahmed’s grandfather resting by the roadside. He proclaims “I want the child to be brought up properly” but a few scenes later sends Ahmed away to buy him a packet of cigarettes. He also says, “Anyway, I’ll find an excuse to give a beating every fortnight.” How does introducing a vice to a young boy constitute “proper” upbringing?

The movie is engaging in its numerous still shots and long takes that introduce the lives of the average proletariat Iranian family. Through a series of medium (thanks Hui Ping!) shots in the first scenes within the house, we see tension in the family taken between the mother and the son contrasted against still shots. Further, a wide establishing shot is captured as Ahmed runs up the slope on a barren hill, framed with a solitary tree standing naked against the background. This framing thus creates an impression of the height and depth of the field, whilst filling the empty space that would otherwise have been the horizon atop the hill. The camera follows the 180º rule strictly in Ahmed’s running sequence in the medium shots. As he runs out of one frame to the right, he is shown running back into the frame from the right.

I also cannot bear but note the anachronism this film contains. Being set in the 1980s, an age where mobile phones are not prevalent, a promise is a promise. There is thus no way in reneging a promise or a deal, nor will there be a way in the movie for Ahmed to reach out to Reda via a simple text message (you’d be surprised at what age children today start owning a handphone), who probably thought that he had misplaced his notebook and who was probably fearing the worse from the teacher the next day. This stands in stark contrast to a denigration of such virtues in present-day society, what with the increasing interconnectivity between people that thus has led to an ease in contacting people.

References

Cheshire, G. (1999). Taste of cherry. Retrieved on November 19, 2010, from http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/55-taste-of-cherry

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2 Responses to Where Is The Friend’s Home? (1987) خانه دوست کجاست

  1. Hui Ping says:

    Hi Walter,

    I have also done a review on Where is the Friend’s Home. : ) I really enjoyed reading this review! I think you have brought up a very good observation about the degradation of values in our modern society with new technologies that supposedly brings us closer.

    When you said “middle shots”, did you mean medium shots?

    I also agree that adults are portrayed in a bad light in the film although I’m not very sure about the teacher arriving late? I thought the students just arrives earlier than class time so when the teacher comes in, it is actually lesson time and thus anyone who comes in later is considered late?

    Hui Ping

    • walter.sim says:

      Hello Hui Ping!

      Yup — oops “medium” shots indeed. That’s what I meant. I’ve made the according rectifications in (all) my write-ups, so thanks a lot for that! Had trouble recollecting what the exact term was. Haha.

      And nope, the teacher himself admitted to being late in coming to class. The opening scene can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFgMBBiFLwI. But yes — adults are really portrayed in a bad light as compared to the innocence and self-righteousness of a child, and that I believe is the intent of Kiarostami through this film.

      The whole modern technology thing, well, it was something that I found to be apt. I mean — such a storyline would probably not work anymore in modern society, right? And it is this anachronism that makes the movie such a potential classic.

      Walter

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