Reviews and notes
1999 Montreal, New York, Gijon
2000 San Francisco, Manila, Wellington
A sightless boy sees more of Godís green earth than his sighted father can in Majid Majidiís majestic THE COLOR OF PARADISE
Ė another profound entry in the remarkable catalogue of contemporary Iranian films that focus on children and landscape to express yearnings for innocence and faith.
The term is over for Mohammad who attends a boarding school for blind children in Tehran. But his father, a poor widower hoping to remarry, only reluctantly takes him home to the country for the summer; who wants a blind child in the dowry? At least there Mohammad has his two affectionate younger sisters, and his adored grandmother, a warm, holy old woman whose generous love for her grandson is as reliable as the sun and wind and flowers and birds so simply, reverently photographed by the painterly filmmaker.
Majidi contrasts Mohammadís frustration and loneliness Ė never more powerful than when the boy can only hear whatís around him while we can see intensely colored natural beauty Ė with moments of rapture when the boy, with his sensitive, searching fingers, touches leaves, water, or his patient Grannyís familiar face. (Her mottled, calloused hands, he tells her, feel white and soft.) His eyes may be useless (the untrained child actor really is blind), but Mohammad sees whatís important. And in a scene as wrenching as any more Westernized climax, the weeping boy cries out his anguish.
His fatherís vision is limited, metaphorically, until tragedy washes his eyes clear. Majidi is empathetic to the older manís own struggles; heís also attuned to the movement of girls, aged countrywomen, and airborne seedpods, all part of a divine plan. A lot happens in THE COLOR OF PARADISE
, some of it shocking. Yet while never slow, the film feels quiet and spacious, like a prayer.
ó Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly, 7/4/2000.
Although it is about an 8-year-old boy, it is by no means a kid's movie, and the PG rating is well advised for children younger than 10. The emotional complexity of THE COLOR OF PARADISE
broadens each step of the way to its unforeseeable conclusion.
The audience is introduced to the solemn-faced boy, Mohammed, at a Tehran school for the blind, as he punches out Braille transcriptions with astounding dexterity. As played by blind young actor Mohsen Ramezani, the sightless Mohammed is extraordinarily receptive to all the other messages nature sends him.
In this beautifully made film, Majidi presents viewers a world of vibrant color. Mohammed's is a world of sound.
He follows the sounds of nature, a bird, a cat, the rustle of leaves, and discovers a bird that has fallen from its nest. Any concerns about the boy's bravery in his dark world vanish with what he does next.
Later, he will 'read' the alphabet left in nature by the arrangement of pebbles in the stream. He deciphers the code tapped out by a woodpecker. Taken to the country after a long absence, he touches his sister's face with his beautiful hands. You've grown, he says. His fingers remember.
Nature is at the center of THE COLOR OF PARADISE
, but some of its sounds are terrifying. The yelp of a wild creature is ominous.
When Mohammed's father, who has failed to pick him up after school, tells officials that he can no longer care for the boy and must leave him behind, it is the first indication that the center of gravity in this film will shift from the boy to the man.
A widower, the father is poor and wants to demonstrate his worthiness of a new wife's dowry. He will apprentice the boy to a blind carpenter. "I'm concerned about his future," he tells his mother. "His future or yours?" replies the shrewd old woman.
The father, played by Hossein Mahjub, may not be proud of what he is thinking, but he is presented with such skill by Majidi that we can read his thoughts.
Separate emotional outbursts by the father and son, each explaining his hold on a slippery world, are all the more effective for being held in reserve by the director, who also gives the old woman a moment of radiance that is like a blessing.
This is a transcendent film, deeply committed and beautifully wrought. It will make anyone who sees it look at the world with new eyes.
- Bob Graham, San Francisco Chronicle, 7 April 2000.
Back to screening list