Films that accurately capture the painful chasm that separates
childrens’ perceptions from those of adults are rare and
precious things (think of such masterful examples as Rene
Clement’s “Forbidden Games” and Charles Laughton’s “The Night
of the Hunter”); but recent efforts from Iran such as “The
White Balloon” and “Children of Heaven” have been remarkably
affecting additions to the canon. This new picture by Majid
Majidi, who was also responsible for “Children,” is yet
another, a visually stunning and emotionally wrenching portrait
of an eight-year old blind boy (Mohsen Ramezani) whose self-
centered, desperately practical single father (Hossein Mahjub)
wants to pack off his son to an apprenticeship with a similarly-
handicapped carpenter so that he’ll be free to marry a younger
woman from a wealthier family.
Like Majidi’s last picture, “The Color of Paradise” is very
straightforward and unforced, but its simplicity is deceptive.
Its message–that the blind youth actually sees more, and
better, than his sighted father–could have easily become
heavy-handed, but the writer-director’s gentle approach keeps
it from descending into bathos; and its religious element–
the father’s self-pity has led him to question God’s very
existence, while his son, though unable to see the splendor
of the natural world which surrounds him, seems somehow to
feel the divine presence that infuses it–might have grown
preachy, but never does. Similarly, the figure of the white-
haired grandmother (Salime Feizi) who cherishes the boy and
warns her son against the mistakes he’s making would, in less
capable hands, be a hopeless cliche, but the delicate shading
that actress and director bring to the character makes her a
touchingly realistic, though obviously iconic, figure.
And Majidi has drawn brilliant performances from his two leads
as well. Mohsen Ramezani, who is actually blind and untrained
as an actor, brings a quiet, eloquent dignity to the boy,
honestly earning the tears he will draw from many members of
the audience; and Hossein Mahjub successfully captures the
torment of an essentially well-intentioned man whose virtues
are overcome by what he considers the unfairness of fate.
Mention must also be made of the luminous cinematography of
Mohammad Davoodi, which joins a crystalline clarity with a
luxuriant color palate, especially in the outdoor rural scenes.
The denouement of “The Color of Paradise” is a trifle
disappointing in that it manufactures a crisis which ends the
film on a note of devastating loss which could have been
achieved in a less contrived fashion, and with a final image
that is self-consciously poetic; “Forbidden Games,” with its
heartbreakingly simple close, is again the touchstone here.
But this is a minor blemish on an uncommonly graceful and
deeply moving portrayal of the hopes and desolation of