The Color of Paradise (Iran 1999, 90 min, dir: Majid Majidi, cast: Hossein Mahjoub, Moshen Ramezani.
Some movies are so lavish they justify the extravagance of the big flat screen you bought for yourself. Mohammad has been sent to a special school for the blind in the city. He’s nearly abandoned until his widowed father comes to reclaim him and take him home.
Home is a long journey to a simple country life with a grandmother and sisters. Along the way the lavish color and abundance of nature fills all 46 diagonal inches of big screen, making home video a near-theater experience.
Once home in the country, Mohammed (Moshen Ramezani), adapts readily because his cheery personality is accepted by everyone. Only the father has bitter feelings about his life, and his relationship with his son. The boy is a burden in a life that, with the death of his wife, is suddenly without an anchor.
The film culminates in one of the most spectacular river calamity scenes I have ever watched. Perhaps you need to have run rivers to understand what you see cannot be faked. The boy is swept away and the father, after hesitating, jumps in too. The power of the river takes the boy, the father, and the horse and will not release them.
Natural life, like the river, is a vital part of Majidi’s theme that spans movie after movie. He loves to contrast city with country. The elements of country are poverty and human conflict. The complications of the city diffuse these and overlay these with hurdles that are for Majidi films, grave life impediments.
In Children of Heaven (MovieWithMe.com) the father and son must go into the rich part of the city to seek work so they can survive their subsistence life in a poor village at the city’s edge. In The Color of Paradise it is a blind boy leaving the shelter of the city for a bucolic life that is both delightful and lethal. Majidi doesn’t seem to weigh in on the values of city versus country except to point out that the vast difference from one to the other causes much confusion to the human beings who must travel between.
He is at his best with children: pointing up the innocence and tragedy they can exemplify so well. After seeing his films, take a look at Turtles Can Fly (MovieWithMe), another excellent Iranian film about children in Iraqi Kurdistan during the American no fly zone before the start of the Iraqi war.