The very first shot in ‘The Color of Paradise’ (1999) is a blank screen, on which we see titles in Persian. As times passes, we hear some words praising God, some songs, and someone turning on and off a tape recorder, and asking a group of children, whose tape each one is. The screen is completely blank all this time, save for the titles.
Actually, it is only after seeing the tapes and the recorder, did I realise what is actually happening. Here is a man who is playing these tapes one after another, and asking a group of children, whose tape it is. In the next shot, we learn another point, the children are blind, and this is a school for the blind, and that this man is their teacher.
I now realise the function of the blank screen in the first shot. The director, Majid Majidi, is asking us to comprehend what is happening with just the audio. We are forced to put all our concentration on the audio, to understand what’s happening. And this is exactly how the blind comprehend the world around them – totally concentrating on the world of sound around them. And this information, that sound is tantamount to the comprenhending of the world for the blind, is crucial to us understanding the movie, because this movie is about a blind child.
Later in the movie, the boy is sitting on a chair, and we not only hear, but also see, birds chirping and flying across the frame.
How he added two and two, and realised that a chick has fallen off its nest, and that the cat is preying upon this chick is beyond me. I, for one, couldn’t have realised that. Not with all my senses intact. Maybe it is exactly because I have all my senses – my vision, my hearing, my olfaction, touch, and taste, in perfect working condition that I couldn’t see it. I take the world for granted. I would hear the chick, and think it is pleasant, and I would see the cat, and think it is beautiful, but I wouldn’t realise the perilous situation the chick is in.
So, now that he realised the chick is in danger, he stamps his shoe to scare the cat. He goes under the tree, kneels down, and feels with his hands, among dead leaves, for the little chick. After a really long time – Majidi dissolves the frame to indicate passage of time, he finds the chick, and then, goes on to climb the tree, find its nest, and puts it back in it. That is one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen. The boy climbing the tree is just so fraught with danger, and we are genuinely concerned for him.
This scene and the movie, aren’t just about the boy, they are also about God. This scene just shows us how God acts in mysterious ways. He has heard the cries of the chick, and has acted through the blind boy. The boy is an agent of God, and the chick has indeed found God. When the boy playfully puts his fingers for the chick to bite, it is indeed, feeling God.
The boy’s father, who feels the child is a burden on him, has seen all this, the boy saving the chick. At the end of the movie, when the father, with the boy on a horse, are crossing a bridge, the bridge cracks, and both the boy and the horse fall into the violent stream below. The boy is now the chick, crying for help, and the father becomes the boy. He jumps into the stream, and goes after the boy. The father wakes up on the shore of the Caspian Sea, finds the boy, and hugs him in an attempt to wake the boy up. The boy does wake up, and also does find his God, as is indicated by this beautiful final shot.