2003 was a big year for me, as a film buff. First, I attended my first film festival, up in Toronto. And second, I discovered the world of Iranian cinema, which was nothing short of a revelation. While I don’t want to over-generalize, there’s a depth and spirituality, a concern for the sublime and transcendant in Iranian cinema that I’ve never experienced in any other country’s cinema.
A perfect example of this is Majid Majidi’s The Color of Paradise. The story of a young blind boy who struggles to find his place in the world while dealing with his father’s abandonment, The Color of Paradise is a deeply moving picture. It’s also a visually resplendent one.
This film’s stunning visuals forever changed my view of the country of Iran. Before seeing the movie, I thought of Iran as largely desert, but The Color of Paradise revealed my ignorance. Shot in northern Iran, the film reveals a lush, verdant countryside, filled with rolling hills, fields of flowers, and deep forests. There’s so much color on the screen that it’s almost as if Majidi is trying to offset the main character’s blindness. However, Majidi also does a masterful job of letting us “see” the world the way a blind person might, through sound and, more importantly, touch.
There are many haunting shots of just the main character’s hands as they explore the world. One shot in particular, of his hands sweeping over a dazzling array of flowers in slow motion, is ingrained in my memory (a bit of this can seen in this entry’s clip). He may not see the colors, but there’s the impression that he, and by extension the viewer, is touching a deeper reality. And in the movie’s final, numinous scene, the boy — who has been wrestling with God’s indifference towards his blindness and loneliness — is allowed to touch, and thereby see, the face of the Almighty Himself.