Life and Nothing More (2017)

LIFE AND NOTHING MORE (Zendegi va digar hich)

(director/writer/editor: Abbas Kiarostami; cinematographer: Homayun Piever; editor: Changiz Sayyad; cast: Farhad Kheradmand (Film Director), Buba Bayour (Puya); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ali-Reza Zarrin; Facets; 1991-Iran-Farsi with English subtitles)
“An amazing film that never fails to hold your interest.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The director, writer and editor Abbas Kiarostami (“Close-Up”) has said, “I personally can’t define the difference between a documentary and a narrative film.” Kiarostami uses nonprofessional actors to recreate the real events. The events of Life and Nothing More are based around the 1990 earthquake that destroyed much of northern Iran and killed 50,000. It presents a simple narrative with the equally simple objective of recalling the real events. The middle-aged director, played by Farhad Kheradmand, learns that the small-town of Koker where he shot his 1987 film Where is the Friend’s Home? has been struck by the earthquake. Concerned about the safety of his child actors in that film, the Ahmadpour brothers who reside there, he sets out by car from Tehran with his son Puya to see how they are doing in person. When they near the region they are faced with massive traffic jams brought on by the relief effort that prevents them from reaching their destination. But on an impulse the director takes a detour off the main road and crosses remote hill towns where there are now makeshift tents used to house the optimistic survivors. They continue their search for the two young boys who greatly touched their hearts, and in the process interview many of the survivors. This simple plot serves the film well, as they try to understand why God lets some survive and others die. There is, also, a World Cup football match taking place. The events of those games are still important to the survivors, even as they dig out from their troubles.

An amazing film that never fails to hold your interest, as it attempts to blur the lines between reality and fiction. The entire narrative of Life and Nothing More involves a protracted automobile trip that ends up showing the resiliency of the earthquake survivors. The journey of the father and son is not presented as a march towards a specific end but is more of an examination of the journey itself, and it offers a penetrating social commentary about how people travel through life. The director leaves things mysteriously open-ended, as the beautiful cavernous landscape engulfs the small car and the tiny figures in the car with a sense of omnipotence and the ruined area takes on the sacredness of a holy site.

It won the Rossellini prize at the 1992 Cannes film festival.