Filmmakers all around the world try to convey their messages by using different techniques and choosing various topics. The era of Neo Realism is characterized by highlighting the problems of ordinary people, shooting scenes in genuine surroundings, using non-professional actors, and improvisation (Konewko 25). The movie The Color of Paradise serves as a spectacular example of the post-war Iranian cinema that was directed by Majid Majidi. The film discusses the problems and injustices of contemporary Iranian society through a compelling story of a blind child and his family.
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Aesthetics is used in Neo Realism to emphasis the struggle and problems of an ordinary person. Defectors employ various cinematic techniques and plot devises to provoke a strong emotional response from the audience. Gazetas describes neorealism as “low-cost, location-based, improvisational cinematic practices” (306) that focus on the problems of the working class. That is to say, in these movies, the viewers deal with the social issues of common people, unknown non-professional actors can play themselves, and the reality is followed up close (Marguiles 37). The Color of Paradise was shot in a rural district in Iran.
The movie tells a story of a blind boy Muhammad and his widowed father, Hashem, who views his child as a burden rather than a blessing and struggles to accept him as he is. The director uses cinematic language to make the audience feel what it is like to be blind: he shows Mohammad’s hands very closely to demonstrate how he “touches” nature. Moreover, throughout the film, the sounds of nature, footfalls, birds chipping are used to allow views to perceive the surrounding world through the immediate experiences of the child.
Drawing the attention of the audience to the existing problems in society is a key future of New Realism. The Color of Paradise shows how prejudice affects people’s lives. The movie is focused on the story of a blind kid, to emphasize that the children and the disabled are especially valuable to injustice as they are the least protected members of society. Hashem wants to get married again but is afraid that the bride’s family will consider the presence of his blind son an omen, the father even sends his son to a blind carpenter as an apprentice not to have him around. The director shows the child dying at the end of the movie to outline that government and social institutions such as the education system and police fail to protect citizens.
The movie unfolds to a tragic to draw the attention of the audience to political and social injustices. The role of religion in Iranian society is another social theme of the film. The characters discuss the perception of God, whether it is just or not for God to blind a person. Mohammad is not sure that it is a sign of love from His side. Coincidently, the leading social issue of this movie is the battle between rejecting and accepting reality – Hashem fails to love his child unconditionally.
Celli (73) explains these “themes of fatalism versus zealotry, light and darkness…” as the expression of Iranian culture and national identity (2013). Indeed, Hashem complains that the destiny betrayed him, as he had lost his wife and then was left with a blind child. The man survives, but he fails to save his marriage, his wife, and the only child and will have to face the truth for the rest of his life.
The protagonist is lost and does not know what to do; all his decisions only lead to more failures as the first right thing to do was probably to accept his only descendant. Thereby, the main topics of the movie are acceptance, kindness, and family relations between common people. When societal structures and government institutions fail to protect people, these fundamental values and principles are the only source of guidance facing the problems of the chaotic world.
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Celli, Carlo. National Identity in Global Cinema: How Movies Explain the World. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
The Color of Paradise. Directed by Majid Majidi, performance by Hossein Mahjoub, Mohsen Ramezani, Salameh Feyzi, and Farahnaz Safari, Varahonar Company, 1999.
Gazetas, Aristides. An Introduction to World Cinema, Second Edition. McFarland & Company, Inc., 2016.
Konewko, Simonetta. Neorealism and the “New” Italy: Compassion in the Development of Italian Identity. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
Marguiles, Ivone. In Person: Reenactment in Postwar and Contemporary Cinema. Oxford University Press, 2019.