Where is the Friend’s House? (Kiarostami, 1987)

The cinema of Abbas Kiarostami will be my main focus over the course of the next month. Having only seen a few of his films before my recent viewing of Life, and Nothing More…, I now feel it essential to see as much of his work as possible, mainly due to viewing his brilliant companion piece to Life…, Where is the Friend’s House? Made five years earlier, Where is… tells the story of a Ahmed, an eight year old who mistakenly takes his friend’s notebook home with him after school. Understanding that his friend Mohammed will get expelled if he doesn’t do his homework, Ahmed sets out to deliver the notebook personally, traveling to a neighboring town to find his friend’s home. The set-up is deceivingly simple, but Ahmed’s quest to help his friend represents the most basic principles of humanity, helping out those in need even when they don’t realize help is needed. Ignorance is not bliss.Where is the Friend’s House? parallels Ahmed’s search with a number of adult confidants he meets along the way, namely his Grandfather, a blacksmith, and most poignantly an elderly carpenter. Each represents a mode of changing tradition; the grandfather musing about how Ahmed should be disciplined by beatings every ten days, the blacksmith stealing a sheet of paper from the notebook to write up a business agreement, and the carpenter impressing upon Ahmed his beautiful woodwork done some forty years before. Amazingly, Ahmed’s headstrong diligence stays the course, these teachings and social critiques washing over him with little affect. Ahmed’s mission never falters; he must get Mohammed his notebook. Friendship reigns supreme over these seemingly tedious adult matters, and his simplicity of purpose never becomes simpleminded or selfish. This film makes Life, and Nothing More…, (recap: the fictional tale of the film director from Where is the Friend’s House? looking for the boy who played Ahmed after the Guilan earthquake) even more resounding. I’m almost disappointed I didn’t see them in the reverse order. Both films display a sense of timeless devotion and loyalty often ignored in Western cinema, Where is… giving us a window into a child’s vision of these traits, Life… taking it a step further into the adult world. Seen side by side, these two films celebrate the glories of lifelong selflessness, something rare in our “shoot first, ask questions later” world.

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