Saturday, February 27, 2010

Life and nothing more


The film is an absorbing essay on the 1990 earthquake in Iran, in which more than 50,000 lives were lost and 100,000 dwellings destroyed. A film director and his son Puya of around twelve year  set out through the mountains while relief operations are still in progress for a village named Koker to trace out a boy who acted in an earlier movie by the director. In fact Kiarostami did undertake exactly such a journey, ot which the present film is a partially fictionised  version.

Whether documentary or feature, the honesty and realism, shorn completely of any trace of sentimentality or exaggeration, is what stands out. It was next best to having been on the trip one self, and to have witnessed the response of a population to a major natural disaster. The travelogue on a car through the battered roads and villages serves also as a window on society in this part of the world. The people are gentle, courteous and trusting of each other-- civilized people bound together by a shared belief system and values.

There are traffic jams on the way; men digging through the rubble and gaping fissures slicing right across the road. The survivors have found shelters as best as they can manage--tents or the within the ruins left behind by the "wolf", as the quake is addressed. It is too early to dwell on the tragedy--there will be time enough for that--and they are too busy addressing the needs of the hour. Women wash clothes, cook and tend to their babies.  The earthquake happened at the very moment the first goal in a Brazil/Scotland match was held. A TV antenna is being re-installed so as not to miss the World Cup, which is still going on in spite of the earthquake. One child was saved by the mosquitoes, because she had to be taken out and that was when it happened. Her brother, not favoured by mosquitoes, lost his life. Cocks crow as usual.

It is an unforgettable journey through  awesome mountains of life that the director has shared in this beautiful, quiet and human film. It would be difficult to make a more perfect one on such a topic.

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