Where is the Friend’s Home?
’’’’’Where Is the Friend’s Home?‘’’(Khane-ye doust kodjast?’’) is a 1987 Iranian film directed and written by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. The title of the film was derived from a poem by Sohrab Sepehri Iranian poet.”
The rider Asked in the twilight” where is the friend’s House? ”
The passerby bestowed and the flood of light on his lips to darkness of sands
And pointed to a poplar and said:
“near the tree
Is a garden-line greener than God’s dream
Where love is bluer than the feathers of honesty
Walk to the end of the lane which emerges from
Then turn towards the flower of solitude
Two steps to the flowers
Stay by the eternal mythological fountain of earth
Where a transparent fear will visit you
In the flowing intimacy of the space you will hear
A rustling sound
You will see a child
Who has ascended a tall plane tree to pick up
Chicks from the nest of light
Where is the friend’s house?”
Sohrab Sepehri,(translated by:Mehdi Afshar)
(I just Wanted you get familiar (if you not) with Sohrab Sepehri Iranian Current Poet that has influenced Iranian artists a lot.)
story of the Ahmed, a young schoolboy who one day accidentally takes his friend’s notebook from school, prompting a desperate attempt to return it, lest his friend face expulsion at the hands of their hypocritical teacher.
Where is the friend’s home? Is the film from eyes of the children of Iran.It is all about how children live in the adult’s world and how they perceive and deal with them. It is also about how children can understand each other and help each other to survive the power and rules of adults.
The film circles mostly around two motives limitation and discipline and the boy’s Innocent efforts to escape from these limitations. Where is the friend’s home? Is the film of limitation in every angel you look in the screenplay, in production, in everything which comes to mind And Children as most influential pillar of the society are more involved with this situation. we see a lot of scenes that show these limitations and disciplines in the Where is the friend’s home? For Example The boy’s grandfather tries to be hard on the boy (“My old man gave me a penny and a beating everyday…he sometimes forgot to give me the penny…but the beating…he never forgot to give me the beating…”) or his mother yells at him to obey the orders. all of these come from disciplines which try to make limitations .also in the films we see all the people exhausted in some way We see the boy’s mother in an unadulterated way – tired, overworked a strict disciplinarian with 3 kids, exhausted by her day. We see the underwhelmed schoolteacher, disappointed by his students and clearly unhappy with his job; the village door maker, at the end of his life, sharing his former glories and regrets to the boy, Ahmad’s classmate exhausted by the teacher.Also about the elder generation’s disciplines and traditions that makes new generation exhausted.
In the films also we see adults that ignore children and a lot of child laborer scenes. Abbas kiarostami masterly shows theses scenes without burnishes them .
Where is the friend’s Home ? is also a film about loyalty, Ahmad’s loyalty to his classmate, his loyalty to the ethics and his teacher(he could instead of searching his friend’s home easily at first do the homework but he knew that it is against the morality and ethics so he searched first and at last did the homework for his classmate.)
another element that comes to mind Kiarostami use of The zigzag paths. The zigzag path in Where is the Friend’s House? shows the many turns that the child has to take in order to find his friend. Similarly, the man who is driving on the hilly roads in Taste of Cherry is looking for someone to bury him. In Life and Nothing More…, the filmmaker has to find two children who acted in his previous film, following a deadly earthquake that shook northern Iran. Even sometimes the zigzagging movements of an object like an apple in The Wind Will Carry Us or the empty spray can in Close-Up show the randomness of fate. They are practically Kiarostami’s signatory shots.
The end was also so great Ahmad After all the hardship suffered to find the house of friend he found it but not the friend. it seems in this Odyssey reaching the friend is not the point. The Main point is the Odyssey itself .
At last I want to say that where is the friend’s home ? it is a film that makes connection to every one with different tastes, with different ages, with different beliefs , with different countries.it is so pure and so human that you don’t want to miss
gonna read intro after post review:
I love the The White Ballon and The Mirror. I think children make good subjects in Iranian cinema perhaps because it is an oppressive society and All children are under someone’s thumb and the small rebellions make for good stories.
This is a film about discipline in some ways, the story that the old man tells about not wanting to be asked twice, holds for all the adults in the film. Sure they will act reasonable for a bit but soon they will threaten to suspend you and yell OBEY AND DO YOUR HOMEWORK when you need to return your school friend’s notebook so he wont get into trouble. The film is very good at capturing adults; it is also very good at capturing the narrowmindedness of a child intent on doing something.
The child actors are wonderful, the multi generational scenes are wonderful, less wonderful is the task. The minute the kid knew he had the notebook, the obvious solution was to do the homework and give it to his friend at school. Instead, there is an extended search for his friend, some of it agreeable, some of it a bit dull and the whole time the audience (me anyway) is thinking why not just do the homework yrself.
This does not make for compelling drama since nothing is really at stake.
I did enjoy the picture but it felt a bit padded
edit: good intro, seems we mostly agree on themes. I guess I did not feel the ethical issue (maybe I am immoral).
thanks Den. no you’re not immoral maybe we’re so moralistic ;)
“no you’re not immoral maybe we’re so moralistic ;)”
sounds good to me.
I thought this film was fantastic, and a great introduction for me into Iranian film. Good luck in the competition.
4/5 and definitely worth your time.
My first Kiarostami..and one of my favourites. Also I’d like to add…I think that Kiarostami likes to lead his audiences somewhere…. he works with our inherent human curiousity….like in Taste of Cherry…we always want to know what’s going to happen… and in the process… he makes us think and derive our own analysis…like you say… ‘main point is the odyssey itself’….the lessons lie in the journey.
Like all the Kiarostami’s I’ve seen one of the greatest strengths of this film is its simplicity – it is a simple tale, beautifully observed told with warmth and humanity. The tale in question follows an 8 year old boy. He becomes friends with a kid at his school, the friend in question having been warned by his teacher that if he doesn’t do his homework in his book again (as compared to on a sheet of paper) he will be expelled. Unfortunately our main character takes his friend’s book home by mistake and so, in order that his friend doesn’t get expelled, decides to go on a search to find his friend and return the book. The tale is simplicity itself and that is precisely why it is so effective, not getting bogged down and always having room to breathe.
We see the story from the kid’s point of view which allows Kiarostami to frustrate us with quite how much children are ignored or taken advantage of by adults. My frustration during some scenes (in particular a scene where the main character keeps trying to explain the situation to his mother and every time she ignores him and tells him to get on with his homework before he can go play) was very strong and served to emphasise the frustrations that children can face. Probably the weakest bit of the film is when the film abandons its main character for five minutes to listen to a not desperately interesting conversation between two locals about discipline – without the child’s viewpoint the film loses something, and though I can appreciate how this scene adds thematically to the film it still feels out of place and so a bit dull.
The relationship shown, even if the two kids are only together on screen for a few minutes, is very well handled and the children elicit really believable and impressive performances. Add to this some rather beautiful shots and a couple scenes of running that are handled particularly well and there’s a lot to like here. Unfortunately for me the film’s effect, though still effective, was lessened somewhat by quite how it gets to its endpoint. “Why didn’t he just do that earlier?” comes to mind (though I will be a bit forgiving here as I can understand how a kid might get caught up by that sort of tunnel vision even if it does still irritate me as a plot point).
A rather great film though I’m not over the moon about it.
Just watched it this weekend.
Only my second Kiarostami film. I saw Taste of Cherry and thought it was fairly good, but not enough for me to go out and look for any of his other films. I’m glad I saw this one now though, even though I was hesitant initially because for some reason I am put off by the majority of films with child protagonists.
I think it’s difficult to make good films about children, at least ones that I find affecting. Too may kids in films are too precocious. Man, that really puts me off for some reason. But this film is great. It made me so sympathetic for the kid. I agree with Cecil that so many scenes made me frustrated. It is pretty rare that I watch a film and get so frustrated that I just want to step into it that much and scream “would you just fucking listen to the kid for a minute!!!!”
I agree it was great in its simplicity.
BTW, I see another rare good film about a child coming up in the Director’s Cup. The Children are Watching Us.
Nice introduction Vahid. Thank you very much.
I was very fond of the rebellious nature of the main character. I think that maybe Kiarostami is making a statement about the equilibrium between freedom and order., but in a so simple and pure way that there is not place for preachy discourses nor pretentiousness. To me the behaviour of this kid represent a very equilbrated way to act in front of the law. At first he didn’t make the homework of his friend simply because it’s not allowed to do so. In that circumstances the best option was to give back the book (breaking the mother’s rules). At the end in the house the best option was to do the homework (breaking the teacher’s rules). It’s about acting in terms of what you think is right and always pondering. I see it as an ethical discussion with no simple answers.
I’m just trying to figure out where resides the power of the kiarostami stories. Why being so simple this film is that compelling. Tangerine has a damn good point talking about inherent human curiousity but I wonder what is in the cinematic structure that frame this curiosity and make the film not dull at all (at least to me).
Risselada, Nobody Knows is a really great film about the lives of children and that’s competing as well.
Vahid, thank you for the poem!
I agree with a lot of what has already been said, so to avoid reiteration, I’ll add some other thoughts or state where I feel differently.
Unlike some people who have commented, I did not feel frustrated in a bad way when the adults were being dismissive and ignoring the child. I felt very connected and supportive of the child’s character. It might be due to coming from a similar culture in which the adults provide rules and structure and children are expected to follow blindly even if the rules are nonsensical.
I also loved the way the child’s passion and mindset were portrayed. Coming from a psychological background and having worked with children for years I can confidently state that children often see things in black and white terms. If the rule is to turn in the homework the next day, written in the notebook by the student, it is obviously completely wrong to do the homework for a child. Here is a sample of child development for about 4-7 years of age (cut and paste from another source)
“Speech becomes more social, less egocentric. The child has an intuitive grasp of logical concepts in some areas. However, there is still a tendency to focus attention on one aspect of an object while ignoring others. Concepts formed are crude and irreversible. Easy to believe in magical increase, decrease, disappearance. Reality not firm. Perceptions dominate judgment. In moral-ethical realm, the child is not able to show principles underlying best behavior. Rules of a game not develop, only uses simple do’s and don’ts imposed by authority.”
I think this was honestly and beautifully depicted in the film.
Questions to participants in discussion
I think this was brough up above by 2 users already, but what the heck was the point of the 2 village men discussing work or whatever for 5 minutes. I did not see the point of the scene other than to show a passage of time, since time was of the essence for the child. All I could think of was that this was inserted into the movie to show us all the time the child went to look for cigarettes while the grandfather wasn’t even in need of them.
Also, I couldn’t see the scene clearly on my computer, but where did the old man lead the child is Posteh? It seemed like the old man told the child that this was his friend’s house, but then the kid approached the house and came back without trying to see if his friend lived there…
vahid – THANK YOU for everything you wrote.
natasha – “Also, I couldn’t see the scene clearly on my computer, but where did the old man lead the child is Posteh?” – your copy as blurry as mine?
my subs went mental at this bit so i had to concentrate on them….didn’t the old man lead ahmed back to the house of the man he followed into the town on the donkey, where he found a child that wasn’t his classmate but had same name, who directed him to the old man in the first place?
i love this film and i love kiarostami, the way he brings warmth into things without a grotesque sentimentality. i hate kids, so any film with children in that i’m sympathetic to is an achievement by itself, just for starters. i wasn’t the least bit frustrated by ahmed not doing the homework himself. and there were some gorgeous shots in the film too…
and don’t forget the humour.
-why are you under the table?
-my back hurts………….
i’m not going to waffle much
i could make a few speculations on what the old men discussing the 6000 tomans lost for 15cm of too-low road meant, but as this was when my subs went really off, maybe someone with more knowledge of the culture could suggest something. i’m here mainly to learn…
@Magpies- Oh yes, that makes sense! I did see a donkey or horse in front of that house….thanks, that clears things up quite a bit.
(yes, my copy was super pixelated so I sat far far away for my computer to make it clearer, but then I couldn’t see shit anyways…)
I think the discussion between the two village men sums up the idea of “obey the rules without hesitation”, an idea that Ahmed is rebelling against with his behavior. The next part in that sequence makes sense when the old man that accompanies Ahmed at the near ending of the film talks about the making of wooden doors in opposition to the making of ironed doors. The constrast wooden/ironed doors goes along with old generations/new generations, urban/rural, modern/rustic dichotomies that it seems are especial concern of Kiarostami as I saw in The wind will carry us. These two moments are as I remember the only digressions in the film and I think are completely justified and are IMO great breaks :)
Thank you. I didn’t undertands that very well neither :P
so in whose house after this wooden/iron door discussion did the wind blow open someone’s wooden door? was it the old man or ahmed? that wouldn’t be the…..cough….wind of change would it?
@ Natasha I’m not sure either but i think the boy was afraid of the old man so he hided the notebook in his shirt and came back to the old man and about the two village men one of them was the man that has same last name with boy’s classmate and some points about traditions shift to modernity (he sold a new metal door instead of other man’s old wooden door )
Thanks ° and Vahid! I did not really catch the metaphor illustrated by the doors. This helps considering doors were discussed repeatedly in the movie. I just kind of tuned it out since my attention is rather fleeting. Awesome!
don’t mention it Natasha,@ Twodeadmagpies yea it would be
A great film, a long-time personal favorite. This is the film with which Kiarostami really finds his artistic center, his first truly great film. And of course, it’s followed up by two even better films Life and Nothing More… and Through the Olive Trees of what is now referred to as The Coker Trilogy.
it’s a real shame that this is up against Sharunas Bartas’ The Corridor, as I feel that Kiarostami and Bartas are both at the very least easily among the top 32 directors in this competition. I’ll be sad to see one of the two be knocked out in the first round.
^ so true
The work discussion outlines themes of the film, about discipline, obey without asking twice
Thanks for the poem and introduction, Vahid. I also have to second Natasha that I didn’t feel frustrated at all in regards to Ahmad’s proceeding to spare his friend Mohammad Reza to get expelled from school, but understood it as an authentic depiction of a young boy’s attempt to escape the insensitiveness and egoistical behaviors of the elders who won’t listen to his moral concerns. I think the adventure itself was ultimately more important than the solution itself, and therefore I don’t think that Ahmad should have just written the friend’s homework himself right away.
I will try to explain my point of view: First of all the parallels in regards to Kiarostami’s very first short film “Bread and Alley” (1970) where a boy needs to find a way to overcome the obstacle “dog” are striking, especially since one of Ahmad’s own final obstacles is again a dog, but as his earlier protagonist has in fact learned a more important lesson of courage and inventiveness, it appears that many of Kiarostami’s young protagonists actually need to overcome a hidden obstacle that is huger than the blatant one, and in most cases relates to the world of the adults.
Unable to communicate with the older generation which won’t take them seriously Kiarostami’s children feel impelled to be inventive and disobedient. The most extreme example can be found in “The Traveler” where the boy decides to break the law in order to achieve his goal, and become independent from his patronizing elders for a while. In comparison to the young protagonists of “Breaktime” and “The Traveler” who both steal, the boy Ahmad is certainly one of the most unselfish and righteous characters that can be found in Kiarostami’s oevre, but at the same time he’s definitely a rebel and sceptical of the authorities. The important obstacle he manages to overcome while searching for his friend’s home are not local, but the boundaries of a society which exploits him and teaches him so-called “discipline” while ignoring his concerns and actually demolishing his personality.
The adults whose irrational and selfish behavior in the film rather disgusts are unable to teach the children right moral values, and confuse them with their hypocrisy, in particular the conversation between Ahmad’s grandfather (who sends him to buy cigarettes although he still has some left) and a neighbor points this out:
- “But if the boy is obedient and does nothing wrong…?”
- “Well, then I’ll find a good reason to give him a hitting every fortnight that he won’t forget…”
The strongest aspect about Ahmad is therefore that he challenges the inept educational methods and wrong values, unlike many boys at his age, and dares to compare them to his personal ideas of what it moral instead of giving in. Even though he ultimately finds an easier solution to help his friend by writing his homework, this solution itself has no real importance, since it has never been the real obstacle. The journey itself has been the reward, since it became a rebellious step towards autonomy for Ahmad.
Hi everyone, I’m new to this MUBI website (love the name).
I will contradict some views so I hope this will be read with good intentions.
Cecil, Den: I understand that sometimes we can fail to agree with what is in front of us, however watching a film with wide open mind and not expecting or demanding anything from it, it is the most rewarding experience. Questioning the reason the kid didn’t do this or that to begin with, it’s just wanting to watch your own film and not the one that is given to you. I personally try not to expect or demand anything from a film because, more often than not, you will end up being disappointed. The story and plot are merely a medium to present a real situation with real characters making this and other similar Iranian films true cinematic realization (in my opinion of course).
And the dull moment of the adults talking about discipline it is a pure moment, lets keep in mind these are not actors and what is in front of you is nothing more that real people doing their thing, which I would trade for the most perfect fabricated twist, end, climax, acting etc. At least that’s what real cinema is for me, to capture reality and not to fake it, to be honest and not pretentious.
The film running against this one (THE CORRIDOR) also has several pure cinematic moments captured at the party where locals where getting wasted. That is the sort of cinema that really gets into me much more than any prefabricated scene.
That is one of the reasons I greatly admire Kiarostami, I often wonder how he creates that environment that makes the kids be so real, the only answer is that it is real, they must not know the film is being shot at that exact moment the teacher is yelling to the boy which makes him cry real tears.
Just one question to you Vahid, (I’m supposing you are Persian) does the conversations between characters seem real?… I have this problem with recent “contemplative” Latin films where the non-actors are so terrible that you feel bad for them, and these films are praised outside the Latin world, maybe it is hard to notice bad acting when not spoken in your mother tongue.
The question posted by ° has the answer in it… the power of the story? why being so simple is that compelling? cinematic structure? it is reality and simplicity itself that makes it so fascinating. There is nothing more compelling that something that is real. There is no hidden structure or technique; it is its transparency what makes it what it is. It is best (for me at least) to not overanalyze; it will just ruin the experience. Like Chaplin once said “We think too much and feel too little”.
Twodeadmagpies: Kiarostami doesn’t bring warmth into things… he brings things that are warmth.
I haven’t seen this film for a long time now; I just rewatched the ending right now… It is a fascinating film for its pure simplicity and for the dull moments mentioned by previous posts.
Blue: Thanks for introducing Bartas (loved his film), I didn’t know he existed and it would be a shame that either he or Abbas have to go so soon.
K, I got off my lazy ass and did the intro to Bartas’ The Corridor, which is up against this fine Kiarostami film. Read and comment here
I was surprised during final twenty minutes or so just how dark the film got both literally and figuratively. When it becomes night time there seems to descend a general sense of gloom that I’ve never felt in a Kiarostami film before. The endeavor of the boy is being proven as fruitless and he is seemingly going in circles as every single adult in the film has proven to be completely useless. Added to this is the fact that the old man is wasting his time taking him in the wrong direction as he complains about the changing of society. All of this on the notion that the action the film is centered on is based upon a good or innocent motivation. Of course Kiarostami ends it with a dash of his trademark optimism with that beautiful flower being found in the notebook again. which makes you wonder whether any of those doubts you had were even relevant.
You’re right, that scene with the old man is very unlike the previous daylight scenes, and actually reminded me of Kafka where protagonists often get impeded and desperately try to reach their destination. The whole atmosphere seems to get intensified and the time pressure becomes more apparent at night, the scary presence of the dog also gives the whole sequence a menacing feel. I think that Kiarostami wanted to highlight the conflict between good intentions and almost insuperable obstacles which ultimately leads the protagonist to another change of mind and the idea to write the homework for his friend despite it being not the most righteous solution.
I can’t agree more with you about overanalyzing. I always have defended the idea of not intellectualize to much our relation with cinema: “Why do you want to dissect the bunny” one could say right?. I praise the films that work with me without even know why they work. I even can love films that I can’t grasp in an analitical or “intellectual” sense (Werckmeister harmonies, I’m looking at you).
That been said I have always been very curious about why I like the things that I like and why this works and that don’t. I think that is something very interesting to think about and maybe I could learn something about me :). In this case I can’t say that the real quality of the film is all that makes it compelling and I disagree with “There is nothing more compelling that something that is real” because there are very complex cinematic excercises that are not “real”-like at all and still are very powerful at the end (last year of marienband for instance).
I want to know because I have have other cinematic experiences with real-like simple films that don’t work with me (for example Andrew Bujalski’s funny ha ha) and being aware about the fact that it’s a matter of taste and sensibilities in part I just wanted some insight of the participants about what do they think about the cinematic form of the Kiarostami films and what is that make him different to others filmmakers apart from content matters. I am sure this won’t ruined my experience at all :)
From your reply I can tell you’re a very nice down to earth guy.
I also share your same beliefs against intellectualization and favour film’s relation to reality and to individual viewers, and regard cinema as a personal medium.
I like that you “analyse” in order to discover yourself and not as an act of pure analytical practice.
I completely agree with the not real-like “cinematic exercises” being as compelling as the real ones (sorry, my statement “There is nothing more compelling that something that is real” might have sounded very close minded), Marienbad and Antonioni’s films like you said are fine examples (although L’Aventura did not work for me, damn even Inland Empire knocked me out of my socks).
The thing is that for some reason I’m deeply attracted and defensive of realism in film, I mean “real reality” not that fake reality that Lisandro Alonso is being so highly praised for (have you seen his work?). Recently, TULPAN and ALAMAR are fine examples of what I think realism is (although that is very subjective).
Back to Kiarostami,
I think a plausible explanation is not so much his cinematic form or anything related to cinema, it goes beyond that and centers more to a social context. Mostly his nationality (his subjects) which is so unfamiliar to ours. I have asked myself the same question, and I think the huge existing gap between our western world (I presume you are from North America) and that of the Middle East accounts for that “it” factor that leave us in awe. I haven’t seen Funny Ha Ha (I just watched the trailer and doesn’t seem to offer anything new), and I think the reason for this relies all in the subjects being filmed. There is nothing interesting to our eyes the reality of white people that look and talk just like us, damn I can just imagine being in a movie when I’m having drinks with my buddies (not interesting because we do it all the time), but all that changes when we see our equivalents from that far and unfamiliar culture (I’m having troubles explaining myself clearly, I hope at least is 50% clear as it is in my head).
The films of Panahi and Makhmalbaf support what I try to say… being different directors but coming from similar background I think their films have the same “it” factor, which is Iranians subjects themselves, their peculiar language, looks, traditions, etc.
A good example is Makhmalbaf’s SALAAM CINEMA (highly recommendable) it is a casting call caught on camera exactly like an American Idol or any reality shown, there is no big difference except the people in front of the camera which make a whole lot of difference.
I guess what I poorly try to say is that typical American people are not interesting and foreigners call our attention in a different way.
But I prefer to not know the reason for the “it”, just like a secret is more fascinating when it’s still a secret.
“I think the adventure itself was ultimately more important than the solution itself”
Apursansar, I couldn’t have said that any better. As I shared with a friend last night, this movie to me felt like a kid’s book on film, but made for adults. At the time, I really wasn’t sure how much sense that statement made, but now I’m certainly convinced that for me, it describes this film to a T. I loved every part of Ahmad’s journey, even the parts that seemingly didn’t make any sense, because that’s how a child might see it. Adults can be quite useless, and their pursuits are often self-important pursuits – my kid can tell you as much, although maybe in different words. For me, everything tied together perfectly, even when it didn’t.
I don’t know how I hadn’t managed to see this until the other day, but I’m thrilled I got to. One of the best I’ve seen so far for the cup. Thanks for the intro (and the great poem!), Vahid.