The Color of Paradise (1999)
Written and directed by Majid Majidi. Starring Hossein Mahjoub, Mohsen Ramezani, and Salmeh Feyzi. 90 mins. Rated PG.
Hashem is not an easy fellow to like. In the lush mountains of Iran, a realm of streams, birds, meadows, and storms, he sees and relishes none of it, unlike his young blind son. A widower mired in sorrow and loneliness, he scrambles to provide for an aged mother and three children. So great is his desperation and self-pity, he seeks to rid himself of caring for that sightless and motherless ten-year old, despite the fact that the boy already spends the school year in faraway Tehran at a residential school for the blind. In fact, Hashem so worries that the burden of the boy will scare off prospective brides that he abruptly dispatches him to apprentice with a far-removed blind carpenter. Hashem later repents of his action (sort of), and in the journey home via horseback, calamity strikes, and suddenly Hashem must choose to risk his own life to rescue his boy. When a rickety bridge collapse under the weight of the horse Mohammad rides, he is thrown in the torrent, and the father just stands there debating whether to save the boy he had thought he’d like to be rid of (1:20:26-1:23:50).
And what a sequence that is, though entirely wordless, and the same wordless ordeal culminates finally in a sort of paternal pieta. The father awakens on a quiet beach to see his son lying motionless, and he runs to him as best he can, given his own ride in those rapids, and there he cradles him, weeping and stroking the seemingly dead boy (1:24:20-1:27:45). And then, light does shine, and not only upon the water. It also makes its way into Hashem’s hitherto darkened soul, for the grace of love and pity have done their thing, for him and even, perhaps, as the film leaves ambiguous, for his newly dear son. Love, of all sorts, divine and human, does happen.
written by Roy Anker