this film, by the amazing iranian director majid majidi, is tender and lyrical. it is more like a poem than a film and watching it is much like a profound, religious experience.
the film starts with 8-year old mohammed learning to read and write braille at a school for the blind. we can immediately tell that mohammed is an exceptional boy. his hands are an extension of his soul. he feels everything with them – the physical world around him but also much more intangible things, like beauty and love. yet to mohammed’s father he is just a liability.
when mohammed goes back to his village for summer vacation he revels in the rich tactile and aural environment around him. he also revels in the warmth of family – his two sisters and most of all his doting grandmother. through stunning cinematography and crisp sound we are treated to scenes of immense beauty. mohammed’s grandmother takes the children on a trip. silently they light a candle and pray at a shrine. on the way back, they pick wild flowers. as they toss handfuls of brightly colored petals in vats of boiling water, we see the miraculous creation of color. this is how wool yarn is dyed, not with chemicals but with water and flowers. the simplicity of people’s lives in the village is shown with such honesty and grace that i could not help thinking of how lightly they tread upon the earth and how vastly different our lives are – bloated, selfish, acquisitive but spiritually poor.
throughout the film, we cannot help but fall more and more in love with mohammed. when he is abandoned once again by his father, he gives voice to his inner most feelings – in the most lucid, sincere and unbearably painful words of a child. mohammed expresses his doubts about being loved and wanted, by his family, or even by god. if god loves him, like his teacher says, then why did he choose to make him blind? he cannot see god. his teacher told him that he could feel god with his hands. and so he has been looking – touching, absorbing everything with rapt attention, trying to read god in grains of sand, ears of wheat and rocks at the bottom of a river.
the film is a quiet meditation with no overwhelming musical score or hollywood chicanery. by being honest and unflinching it unleashes a torrent of emotion. how many exceptional children do we sacrifice daily to all the sadness and hardship in the world…