Ric Roman Waugh, 2013
"You see a peasant with a gun, you change the channel. But you never ask why a peasant needs a gun."
The blind are deprived of a very important link to the world. People who are disabled from using a crucial body function often develop an unusually strong propensity for using the things they do have. In The Color of Paradise, a sightless boy is able to see infinitely more than his selfish father. Iran, while recognized all over the world for its achievements in cinema, tends to produce films that are solid but also no-frills, utalitarian; this one is limitlessly rich and staggeringly powerful, certainly one of the year’s very best.
Mohammed, a young blind boy, is waiting to be picked up for the holidays from the special school where he is sent during the year. All of the other kids’ parents have already come. Mohammed is alone, waiting on a bench. When his father finally arrives, he asks the school officials to keep him over the holidays. The widower is about to get remarried and he does not want his son, who needs a lot of attention, to take away from the ceremony. The officials refuse and the father sullenly takes Mohammed home to their farm.
There, he is greeted happily by his grandmother (Salime Feizi) and his sisters. They are delighted to see him and they dote on him. Mohammed enjoys their companionship and interaction with normal people. It is only his father who is annoyed. He has his own problems, see, and he wants his family to pay attention to them. When Mohammed proudly announces that he has been permitted to attend regular school, it is the last straw: his dad sends him to be an apprentice under a blind carpenter.
The Color of Paradise takes its time, establishing its characters slowly and matter-of-factly so that by the time the film becomes more eventful we’ve already been hypnotized by its deliberate, consistent pace and human characters. As easy as it would have been to make the father a villain, director Majid Majidi never allows us to hate him; instead, we feel sorry for him. He, not the blind boy at the center of the story, is the person to be pitied. Through Mohammed we realize that the lack of sight may prevent someone from seeing the world around him but does not preclude sensitivity to what’s really important.
The grandmother is also a sympathetic character. At one point, she’s seen almost as a crusader, a woman who has to decide whether to protect her son or her grandson and who makes that decision with vehemence and no hesitation. The scene I’m talking about, which I won’t reveal, actually marks the turning point in the film. Now that I sit at my desk weeks later, I realize that the scene is a transition between the quiet first two-thirds of the film and the more tumultuous, dramatic last third. While watching, it is not noticeable. Either way, it’s not a flaw.
Mohsen Ramezani, the boy who plays Mohammed, is actually blind. His performance is amazing. I don’t know if this is a characteristic of the actor himself or a testament to his acting ability, but his face conveys more sorrow than words ever could. The Color of Paradise is his first film. Since he is blind, it may regrettably be his last.
The climax and ending are heartbreaking and the film’s final shot confirms its devoutly religious nature. I’m not a religious person, but the movie’s last three minutes are still in my mind, more vivid than ever. I won’t soon forget The Color of Paradise. It’s one of the most emotionally wrenching films I’ve ever seen and I didn’t even realize it until it was over.
-- Eugene Novikov
|Starring:||Mohsen Ramezani, Hossein Mahjoub, Salime Feizi|
|Directed by:||Majid Majidi|