Editor’s Notes: The following review of Life and Nothing More… is apart of Rowena’s Euro 2012 themed series This Sporting Life which attempts to unite film and football.
Football is arguably the most popular sport in Iran, and has a rich history that dates back to the turn of the twentieth century, thanks to the introduction of the game to the country by the English. Also dating back to the turn of the twentieth century is none other than the medium of cinema itself, which made its first appearance in Iran around the same time. In keeping with this two-pronged theme of football and film, it is worthwhile to look at some of the instances in which films have represented football, less in terms of showing football matches or presenting narratives on football players and more in terms of football as a field both actual and metaphorical to address aspects of Iranian society and culture.
…it is worthwhile to look at some of the instances in which films have represented football, less in terms of showing football matches or presenting narratives on football players and more in terms of football as a field both actual and metaphorical to address aspects of Iranian society and culture.
Consider the 1991 film Life and Nothing More… by Abbas Kiarostami. In 1990, a massive earthquake occurred in northern Iran, killing tens of thousands of people. Several years before, Kiarostami had made a film in the northern region of Koker, Where is the Friend’s Home? (1987). Following the earthquake, he and his son traveled to the north to find out if the children with whom he had worked were alright. Life and Nothing More… reenacts with non-professional actors Kiarostami and his son’s journey through the earthquake-stricken region, in search of their one-time actors. Kiarostami presents this search through the car journey by the director and his son. It is an altogether unassuming, moving, and inspiring film that brings together tragedy and tenacity for living on, on the part of the Iranians whose lives, homes, and families were destroyed by the earthquake.
1990 was also the year of the men’s World Cup in Italy. In the film, football becomes a way for everyone to talk about the earthquake, its devastating aftermath, and surviving and moving on, in a seamless, affective way. In one scene on the way to Koker, the father and son in the car discuss Brazil’s group stage matches. In another scene, the father and son find one of the child actors whose house was destroyed; the three start a conversation on the earthquake, how the boy’s family survived, and then, without skipping a beat, which matches occurred on the day of the earthquake. Later on, the two boys discuss who they think will win and bet on which team will get the World Cup.
In Kiarostami’s cinema, a car journey is at once a cinematic, existential, and humanist way to represent these simple, but profound encounters.
During Kiarostami’s actual journey to Koker, he encountered a man who lost members of his family in the earthquake. Kiarostami encountered him fixing an antenna to try to get the Brazil vs. Argentina match on television. Near the end of the film is a reenactment of this encounter: while driving, the director sees a young man working on an antenna along the gravelly road and he stops to talk to him. He questions the young man about watching television at a time of disaster. The young man replies that he, too, is mourning for the deaths of family members. He continues, “But what can we do? The World Cup is once every four years and the earthquake…” The director has no choice but to agree and says, “Life goes on.”
In Kiarostami’s cinema, a car journey is at once a cinematic, existential, and humanist way to represent these simple, but profound encounters. In turn, these encounters register the Iranians’ passion for football for the film, and Kiarostami’s recognition of this passion as well as the metaphorical weight that this passion carries with it.
[notification type=”star”]99/100 ~ MASTERFUL. Life and Nothing More… is an altogether unassuming, moving, and inspiring film that brings together tragedy and tenacity for living on[/notification]