Shot in black-and-white, Kiarostami’s neorealistic first feature is also considered his first masterpiece. Young Hassan becomes consumed by a single passion: to see a soccer game in Tehran at any cost. Despite his misbehaving and failure at school, this quest exposes how resourceful, smart, adventurous and brave the frustrated little rebel is. As his desperation grows, so do lengths he goes to find money for his trip—including lying, stealing, suffering painful punishment and, most audaciously, taking money for photo portraits of his classmates using a camera that is actually broken. Despite Hassan’s monomaniacal focus, Kiarostami creates deep empathy for and identification with this underdog who follows his dreams, no matter how reckless or ridiculous. Hassan takes definitive action despite the most daunting forces standing in his way, yet even this drive can be waylaid by arbitrary capriciousness or perhaps mere exhaustion.
In only his second film, Kiarostami features one of what would be a long line of protagonists up against the powerful forces of civilization, nature and the self. Young Dara is punished at school and later ostracized among his peers for presumably spontaneous, playful gestures. Through the long hallways, walled streets and elongated shadows of Kiarostami’s graphic compositions, the outcast flees. As he wanders, his thoughts and goals are his own. In this early work, the filmmaker’s appreciation of the emotional and intellectual power of ambiguity and open-endedness is dynamically countered by his eye for sensitive, miraculous detail.