Two Solutions for One Problem (Abbas Kiarostami, 1975, Iran)

Two Solutions for One Problem opens with its title card on a chalkboard. We are introduced to two boys - Dara and Nader. The boys exchange a book. Nader sees that Dara has torn his book. He, in turn, tears Nader's book. The two boys are angry with one another. The boys begin to tear apart one another's items. We cut in close-up to each boy as they continue to up the ante, soon ripping one another's clothing. The boy then breaks the other boy's ruler. Soon caps are thrown off. This fight has escalated quickly.

The two boys begin a tussle on the empty classroom floor, fighting each other. We see this from a distance through the chairs on the floor. We return then to the chalkboard, where a counter is kept for Dara and Nader's respective victories against one another. A broken pen, a borken satchel, a broken satchel, a soiled scarf. Dara now has a black eye, and Nader has a wounded forehead. We return to an introduction to the two boys once again. We see the same introduction as earlier, that the two boys are friends. We are now seeing an alternate scenario where the other boy repairs that boy's book, instead of damaging it. The film concludes with shots of a playground, and another introduction to the two boys - "Dara is still Nader's friend". Someone on Letterboxd has described the film as "like having Bresson as your kindergarden teacher," and this is quite accurate. Through Kiarostami's lens, what is on the surface basically a lesson for children to behave properly, becomes something altogether more serious. This is manifested in the way Kiarostami captures the glares of the two boys, and the artful way he captures their violent competition. There is a universal theme at the core of this film.



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