Thus begins Abbas Kiarostami’s 1987 Persian film, Where Is The Friend’s Home?, a movie about a simple mix-up where Ahmed accidentally ends up taking Reza’s (identical) homework notebook home that afternoon.
Ahmed, shocked by this discovery, wants to return the notebook to Reza, lest he be expelled. He however faces a few problems doing this. He does not know where Reza lives (all he knows is the name of his village - Poshteh). Also, his mother does not permit him to go. Ahmed seizes the opportunity when his mother asks him to buy bread, and runs the entire distance to neighboring Poshteh.
Ahmed’s run to Poshteh is a scene I’ll remember for a long time, thanks to the simple, uplifting background music that’s still playing in my head, and the lovely visuals that feature a mostly-barren landscape. It is a long run, and the immense effort Ahmed puts into the run reflects his unwavering commitment to keep Reza out of trouble.
What then ensues is a search through the labyrinthian streets of Poshteh, a frantic search that lasts until night. Ahmed, during this search, encounters many adults who, owing to their failure at comprehending the urgency of the situation, deviate him, give him false information that leads him to dead-ends, and ultimately slow him down.
This search takes up a majority of the film’s total duration of 83 minutes, and during this, the movie’s pace slows down considerably. This, rather than making the viewer experience boredom, fills one with restlessness, especially when Ahmed is misled. When an old man claiming to know Reza’s house leads Ahmed at a painfully slow pace, all the while talking non-stop about wooden doors, the viewer sighs in frustration and, like Ahmed, wishes the old man would hush and speed up.
What makes this movie special is it’s simplicity and it’s ability to convey messages directly and yet very subtly. Dialogues are reduced to the bare-minimum. Kiarostami’s script relies more on Ahmed’s body language throughout the movie, and Babek Ahmed Poor, who plays Ahmed, pulls it off brilliantly. Also worth mentioning is Ahmed’s characterization. Ahmed is not the average, loud, smart-ass kid that every other movie has, but a normal boy with a naivety typical of his age. This endears him to the audience, and when he’s helplessly searching for Reza in an uncooperative adult world, one’s heart goes out to him. Towards the end of the movie, one realizes that s/he understands Ahmed better than the elders around him (including his parents) do.
The movie ends on a quiet, refreshing and delightful note, and leaves the viewer gasping with overwhelming joy at it’s sheer beauty and purity. Going into the details of the climax would deny you the privilege of experiencing it first-hand, and I’ll refrain from doing so.
Summing it up, Where Is The Friend’s Home? is an awesome movie, a must-see. It very beautifully brings out the rock-solid friendship between the boys, and also makes one look reproachfully at adults, their attitudes and their inability to understand children. I’m not too sure if you’ll be able to get hold of this movie, but if you do happen to find it, don’t miss it!
--© Guru Smaran