Director: Majid Majidi

by Massoud Mehrabi

No one could predict that one of the ordinary actors of The Art Center's propaganda films, would some day become one of the prominent directors of the Iranian new cinema. Majid Majidi surprised a lot of people with his first feature, Baduk. The film had an unusual theme in the Iranian Cinema of that time and enjoyed a calculated and totally professional structure. The film was screened in Directors’ Fortnight of the Cannes Festival (1992) and was regarded as a courageous product from the Islamic Iran. His second feature, The Father, proved that Baduk has not accidentally become a good film. Majidi's third feature was a longer leap that took him from Tehran to Los Angeles. The Children of Heaven was one of the five foreign film nominees for Oscar 1999. Now, with Color of God, Majidi has brought new visions to his audience The main difference between Color of God and Majidi's previous films is that it has become detached from an extrovert cinema with social/critical trends and has neared a poetic, loving, and introvert cinema. The time lag between the production of Baduk and Color of God is not great, but the path has been a long one. Baduk's locale is the hot and dry lands of Sistan and Baluchestan (a province in the southeast of Iran), but the story of Color of God happens in the green and heavenly atmosphere of the north of Iran. Baduk has a very bitter, dark, and caustic theme, but Color of God talks about kindness and hope. Another difference is that Color of God belongs to the non-narrative cinema in which producing a work of art is much more difficult than in the story-telling cinema. This is a style Majidi has experienced before. It is interesting to know that Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Majidi started their work as a director and an actor respectively in the same place, but took different routes in their ways of thinking and viewpoints of the world. Today, they have reached the same place. Makhmalbaf's The Silence and Majidi’s Color of God have a lot in common. The protagonist of The Silence like that of Color of God is an eight-year old blind child, both take somewhat similar paths from the beginning to the end, and both find their ways with their intuition. Although at first glance the finales of both films -where the protagonists are reborn into a higher status- look similar to each other, Makhmalbaf's The Silence has an earthly look at man and Majidi's Color of God has a divine, religious, and metaphysical one.
Apart from the differences, Color of God has common elements with Majidi's previous films. The protagonist in all of his four features is a juvenile who is in a continuous battle with the outside difficulties. In Baduk, in order to find his sister Jamal who has been kidnapped, Jafar has to fight hard with the exploitative conditions surrounding him. In The Father, Mehrollah, who has become the breadwinner of the family after his father's death, cannot get on with his stepfather. He accepts the stepfather's presence only when he beats him in an unequal fight, and finally succeeds in gaining an equal status in the family. In The Children of Heaven, Ali takes part in a tormenting competition in which he has neither experience nor practice for a pair of shoes. In Color of God, Mohammad who belongs to the divine world fights the devil world to his death.
Looking psychologically at the four films, we come to an interesting point in Majidi's subconscious. Majidi is preoccupied with the issue of "father". If we ignore the happy finale of The Children of Heaven (where the father buys shoes for the children), Majidi's vision of "father" is not a kind one. In Baduk the father is killed under the debris. The question is, would the story not take the same path with the father's presence? The answer is yes. It would not make any significant difference. In The Father too, the father has died before the story begins, and Mehrollah is fighting with his stepfather. In The Children of Heaven Ali is forced to tolerate the hard conditions because his father is poor and weak. In Color of God however, fighting the father is the main and apparent story line. The father somehow represents the devil world and his son -Mohammad- represents the divine world. The father considers the blind and motherless Mohammad an obstacle in the way of his new marriage. In a sequence he and Mohammad are riding on a horse over a dilapidated bridge. (Doesn't it seem probable to the father that the bridge may fall down?) Then the bridge collapses and both plunge into the swirling water of the river. Now the devil in the father tempts him so much that in stead of saving Mohammad, he cries and shouts and procrastinates so much until Mohammad drowns. His paternal love is shown when he hugs Mohammad's dead body. However, life and death are God's wishes. The camera zooms down from the height of the sky, approaches them, a bright light falls onto Mohammad's hand, and his finger flickers. He is alive! What makes Majidi's work beautiful is that he does not portray people's feelings and intentions in a superficial and visible (even using dialogue) form, but through poetic elements.
All in all, Majidi is now recognized as a renowned filmmaker who has his own beliefs and style. We should wait and see whether he will follow this trend or take another path in his future films. This waiting, in itself, means esteem for a filmmaker.

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