Thursday, 3 January 2019

100 Essential Films That Deserve More Attention - 28. The Colour of Paradise

People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to experience the escapism of a captivating story, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.

With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.

This series of articles aims to highlight the overlooked masterpieces that I have unearthed whilst exploring the forgotten recesses of cinema. Take a gamble on any one of these films and I guarantee that you will be eagerly awaiting all future instalments in this series. You may well have heard of a number of these films; my aim isn't merely to shine a spotlight on the most obscure films out there, but to share my enjoyment of those films which don't have the cult following I believe they deserve.

The Colour of Paradise
Director - Majid Majidi
Country - Iran
Year - 1999
Runtime - 90 Minutes

The Colour of Paradise is a powerful and poignant parable from acclaimed Iranian Director, Majid Majidi, about a blind boy, Mohammad, and the strained relationship with his father, who is a widower. Mohammad's grandma and sisters adore him but his father cannot hide his feelings that Mohammad is a burden. This is seen early on when Mohammad is the last child to be collected from a school for the blind as it closes its doors for the summer and his father attempts to convince the teachers to take care of him indefinitely.

In stark contrast to his father's cold nature, Mohammad is a caring and inquisitive young boy who is attuned to the world around him. He rescues a young bird from a prowling cat and climbs a tree to return it to the nest whence it came, a tall feat for most children, especially one who is blind. When he is reunited with his grandma and sisters after his father reluctantly agrees to take him home from school, Mohammad brings thoughtful gifts and is overjoyed to be back in their presence.

Religious symbolism is rife throughout The Colour of Paradise; Mohammad may be blind but he sees far more than his father, although they both question God's grace in times of strife. At its core this is a simple tale but much can be interpreted by the ambiguous ending and the tests of faith encountered along the way. The simplistic storytelling is balanced perfectly with a depth of meaning, enabling viewers to appreciate the story as a straightforward narrative or to explore the ideas in theology that lay just beneath the surface.

Director Majidi has perfectly captured the element of childlike curiosity Mohammad has for his surroundings in his choice of shots; shots that worship the tranquility of nature and linger on the beautiful natural world that we are lucky enough to see. Despite being blind, Mohammad's other senses are sharp and the sound editing reflects this by emphasising certain background noises, particularly bird calls which fascinate the boy and are often bought to the forefront of the mix. Touch also plays a huge role in his understanding of the environment around him, as Mohammad drifts his hands through and along all manner of plants, rocks and streams, feeling for braille letters in everything he encounters.

The extraordinary actor who plays Mohammad, Mohsen Ramezani, is blind in real life and he brings an endearing charisma to the role, allowing audiences to easily empathise with the difficult situations he finds himself in. There is an incredible depth of emotion on display and the acting is convincing enough to make it seem like Ramezani is living the role rather than portraying it. Both his father (Hossein Mahjoub) and grandma (Salameh Feyzi) provide excellent support but there is no denying that Ramezani is the inimitable star of Majidi's alluring vision.

Mohammad's endeavours to lead a normal life are at times traumatic and the tears of frustration he pours out lead to some genuinely touching scenes. A defining moment is when Mohammad indicates the true reason for outstretching his hands when walking. It is not to feel his way but to reach out for God in the hope that one day he will find him. As illustrated by this heartfelt confession - and without being overtly sanctimonious - The Colour of Paradise is a beautiful and enchanting depiction of a faith that knows no bounds.

If you take the time to watch The Colour of Paradise then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!

For previous instalments in the series click here

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