Where Is My Friend's House? was just sort of meant as a little didactic film for Iranian children in the 80s, but it's so much more. There's a juxtaposition within the film between the straightforward, "realistic" (for lack of a better word) setting/plot and the the poetry/magical realism of how Kiarostami tells the story. Reminded me a lot of Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali (1955), which has a similar effect.
Here we see a short-hand for moral complicity so shattering in its effectiveness that it shows how little is required of cinema. A commitment to faces, the simplest of premises. So many truths herein about the specifics and universal, the way that a very human conflict is used to comment on a changing Iran. So thankful to Kiarostami for allowing us to access this space so foreign geographically but not spiritually
Kiarostami in the more neo-realist mode, which, in his early career cast a shadow of anti-pedagogy over that genre's pedagogical trappings. What drives the film is an urge to do good - with children, the act of doing good is less virtuous than you'd think, and he brings confusion out of his actor's faces. Farhad Saba's frames are breathtaking, even when showing immersion into a child's world of half-thought commands.
There aren't words to describe how delightful this film is. The opening scene where our hero, obedient and honorable, discovers he's mistakenly taken his classmate's notebook, is among the most memorable that I've come across. His journey lags a bit, but his face and his purpose are unforgettable, as is the final scene.
A seemingly simple story about a child's attempt to return his friend's notebook thinly conceals an underlying meditation on duty, morality, culture and lost innocence. In a pastoral village, the lives of children and adults remain largely aloof and distant. just like old Persia and new Iran. Iron doors that last a lifetime is the new trend, but surely there must be a place for carpenters in Koker.