The Color of Paradise (Farsi)

Do you love a good Iranian film? Hey, who doesn’t? “The Color of Paradise” (“Rang-e khoda”) is a sensitive, peaceful story from writer/director Majid Majidi about the struggles of a blind boy and his father.

Mohammad (Mohsen Ramezani) is the boy, strongly in tune with the world around him and fascinated by every texture he feels and sound he hears. The film opens with the end of the term at his school for the blind, and his father (Hossein Mahjoub) reluctantly taking him home for the summer. The father, a widower, is an unskilled laborer seeking to gain advantage by marrying into a wealthy family. He sees his blind son as a burden, incapable of caring for him in his old age and more trouble than he’s worth.

This rather harsh philosophy is muted by the film’s quiet tone and lush Iranian countrysides. The boy is not ignorant of his father’s apathy, but he is achingly stoic, breaking down only once in a scene that demonstrates the previously unknown child actor’s ability. (The actor is blind, too, which makes his talent all the more amazing, especially in a country not known for churning out great thespians.)

Mohammad has a loving grandmother (Salime Feizi) and two adoring sisters, fortunately, but they are unable to keep Dad from sending him off to be an apprentice to a blind carpenter (Morteza Fatemi). Father’s desperation grows very slowly but steadily, and we are kept off-guard by the fact that the film is well more than half-over before anything really happens, plot-wise. This makes the conclusion seem more startling than it normally would, and effectively unhinges our emotions.

It must be re-emphasized, however, that for a very long time, nothing seems to be happening. It would be easy to say that it’s a different style of story-telling and therefore our fault, not the movie’s, if we get bored with it. In fact, that would be too easy. A story is a story, and either it’s interesting or it’s not, no matter what culture it came from. This one, seen as a whole, is powerful (particularly if you give yourself a day or two to consider it); however, it’s impossible to see it as a whole as you’re watching it. While you’re watching it, you’re being impressed by the good acting, but you’re also wondering when it’s going to amount to something.

B- (1 hr., 30 min.; Farsi with subtitles; PG, mild thematic elements.)