The first shot shows students descending a staircase in calm, orderly fashion, then the second details the same action as a chaotic rush. Separated by slates and director Abbas Kiarostami’s voice intoning, ‘Sound, camera,’ subsequent sequences describe the same dichotomous behavior in a schoolyard, on a school bus, and in the haphazard traffic of Tehran. Kiarostami described this as ‘a truly educational film,’ but it plays more like a quirky philosophic aside.
“In Kiarostami’s films there is an identification of the car with the hero that relates to both class and personality. In the final sequence of Life and Nothing More . . . the hero’s car, seen in extreme long shot, represents the character. Earlier in the film, when he uses his car to block certain roads in ruined villages, he’s posing an obstruction to the villagers. In Orderly or Disorderly, especially the last sequence, the behavior of people in their cars, seen from a high angle, is a strong indication of their social nature. The car in modern life has become the ultimate private and sacred space for individuals who spend a good portion of their lives behind wheels. They do business, drive, eat, and meditate on the road, among other activities, and their cars constitute a kind of personal armor. (Significantly, when Badii in Taste of Cherry finally decides to kill himself, he leaves his car behind and takes a cab. And before Bezhad throws away the thighbone in The Wind Will Carry Us, he rinses off his windshield.) The tire in Solution that the hero needs for his car reveals a very ironic relationship between man and machine, a kind of mutual dependence. Although he rolls the tire down a hill, several close-ups of the tire in motion make it seem autonomous, with a will of its own, as in Rumi’s poem #322:
You are my polo ball,
running before the stick of my command
I am always running along after you,
though it is I who make you move.”
“A similar structure was used to reflect on issues of loyalty, betrayal and responsibility in a rarely seen documentary made at the time of the Revolution, Case No.1, Case No.2 (Ghazieh shekel avval, ghazieh shekel dovvom, 1979), and again in the extraordinary short Orderly or Disorderly (Be tartib ya bedun-e tartib, 1980). Here, Kiarostami is apparently offering a didactic study of how disciplined behaviour is more efficient than undisciplined activity; he shows children, for example, getting on a bus in random fashion and then doing the same thing in file and slightly more quickly, at which point he concludes (in off-screen voiceover) that order is better. But by the time he’s applied this parallel narrative structure to a few more case studies – such as cars at a busy intersection in Tehran – the message is murkier: it's not only harder to prove order's more efficient, but there’s also a suggestion that the film-makers are actively influencing the ‘objective’ reality they first seemed simply to be documenting.”
“After more than ten minutes of conscientiously demonstrating the benefits of orderliness in community life (once more exemplified in the ‘microcosm’ of school) – represented by the time-code in the inspired sequence where the children get on the school bus - Orderly or Disorderly? adopts a self-referential and parodic tone, which nothing could have led us to expect ... apart perhaps from the question mark in the title (which no filmography of Kiarostami has seemingly troubled to include). Kiarostami explodes from within the binary structure he had used in Two Solutions for One Problem.”
“At least two shorts belong with Kiarostami's finest work: Two Solutions for One Problem [...] and Orderly or Disorderly [...]. Each comically explores the results of alternative forms of behavior. [...] More philosophically profound but just as hilarious, Orderly or Disorderly shows us blys leaving class, heading for a water fountain, and getting on a bus, then adults driving in a busy intersection. Each action – preceded by a film slate, accompanied by diverse offscreen comments from Kiarostami and his crew about how the shot is shaping up, and ending with ‘Cut!’ – is shown twice, with the boys or adults behaving in orderly or disorderly fashion, and in the case of the bus-boarding we get four long takes from two separate camera angles, two of the takes containing time codes.”
- 1. Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa and Jonathan Rosenbaum, Abbas Kiarostami. Expanded Second Edition (Urbana, Chicago and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 72.
- 2. Geoff Andrew, 10 (London: British Film Institut, 2005), 24.
- 3. Alberto Elena, The Cinema of Abbas Kiarostami (London: SAQI in association with Iran Herritage Foundation, 2005), 32. Translated from Spanish by Belinda Coombes.
- 4. Jonathan Rosenbaum, “Short and Sweet,” Film Comment, Vol. 36, Iss. 4 (Jul/Aug 2000): 27.