Criterion Prediction #99: And Life Goes On, by Alexander Miller
Title: And Life Goes On aka Life, And Nothing More
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Cast: Farhad Kheradmand, Hocine Rifahi, Buba Bayour, Ferhendeh Feydi
Synopsis: After a massive earthquake, a film director and his young son travel through the countryside to the town of Koker, which served as the location for his previous film, to track down cast members is the hopes that they have survived. Amid the wreckage and massive casualties, the people maintain an air of compassion and charity. Kiarostami’s self-referential narrative ties into his previous Where is my Friend’s House? and would later build off of Through the Olive Trees; this informal trio would be referred to as The Koker Trilogy.
Critique: Whenever there’s a disaster depicted in a film, we see characters band together and work charitably toward a greater good; acts of humanism are inherent in movies but it’s not often we see something that feels like a purely humanist film.
Kiarostami’s slow-burning refinement is reflective of the creative process in Certified Copy or the take on more existential components in A Taste of Cherry; here he brings a stunning level of poignancy in his stark examination of benevolence and communal harmony that’s subtly motivated by the director’s penchant for meta themes. What might seem like the canvas for earthy neorealism, docudrama or otherwise, the substance comes in the under dressed, casually reflexive structure; and in distancing his film from the literal action of the earthquake And Life Goes On becomes all the more powerful and affecting. The entirety of Kiarostami’s 1992 feature is a moving, experience; the core comes from the polarizing depiction of collective altruism in the days after the Manjil-Rudbar earthquake. Every character the father and son encounter are open regarding their loss, but they don’t wallow in their grief, there isn’t a selfish motivation throughout the film; every gesture and question elicit a charitable act. The very title And Life Goes On evokes the headline theme of the movie and does so in a genuinely moving way; his ability to channel such a high emotional response is indicative of his assured direction.
Why It Belongs in the Collection: Abbas Kiarostami passed away not too long ago and distribution company MK2, a familiar name in conjunction with The Criterion Collection, acquired the director’s first twenty titles, including And Life Goes On, Where is My Friends House?, and Through the Olive Trees. The possibility of the Koker Trilogy becoming a three film collection or each movie getting a spine number remains to be seen but, out of the three, And Life Goes On feels like the most significant of the director’s early works and is in need of restoration. Regardless, these movies are in good hands.