The Color of Paradise
Since childhood, I’ve had this recurring nightmare that my eyes are open, but everything’s dark. In this dream, I just can’t seem to understand why I feel so blind. Then, I realize that I’m standing in a windowless, pitch black prison cell. My eyes are open, but the scene before me is nothing more than confining darkness.
In The Color of Paradise, there’s a man living my nightmare: Mohammad’s father, Hashem. Hashem, unlike his visually handicapped son, is a seeing man – his eyes are open…but everything’s pitch black. Spiritually, he’s in a dark, windowless room suffocating in his own selfishness and blindness. He is confined in a prison of his own making; one built on bitterness and disaffection.
He is blind to the beauty of his family; he is blind to the wonder of life that his son, Mohammad, experiences daily; he is blind to the beauty of God’s world; and perhaps, most sadly, he is blind to his own condition. However, through tragedy and loss, he is forced to confront that condition and make a decision about his character.
In striking contrast, his sightless son is able to see life with light, optimism and faith. From the moment we meet him in the Tehran Special School for the Blind, we recognize his curiosity, hope and love of life. He is marked by an unmistakable sense of innocence and awe. It is a simple and inspiring awe that the filmmaker invites the audience to share with him. As Mohammad explores the spring-time perimeter of the
school waiting for his father and later, as he takes in the landscape traveling home for summer vacation, the audience has the opportunity to hear and feel the beauty of the Middle Eastern countryside as a blind, awed eight-year-old boy.
While the self-absorbed father attends to his wedding plans and personal sulking, Mohammad’s loving Granny and happy-go-lucky sisters provide a much needed bright spot in the story. They represent goodness and love, showing kindness and affection to Mohammad. My best experience in the movie was observing their close-knit bond and distinctive relationships. The Granny loved without restraint, prejudice or selfishness. But eventually, in an especially painful scene, she dies of heartbreak when she sees Hashem for who he really is and what he’s done.
Fearing that his son would disrupt his marriage plans, Hashem sent him away as an apprentice to a blind carpenter. But, even there injustice could not suppress Mohammad’s spirit. His blind mentor reinforced a truth stated at the beginning of the movie by his school teacher: “God is not visible. He is everywhere, you can feel Him. You can see Him with your hands.” Mohammad (and me as a co-learner in his experience) begins to understand that the only true handicap is spiritual blindness and darkness of the soul.
I felt challenged to love like Granny loved and to live like Mohammad live – with humor, awe and hope. I also felt challenged to avoid –at all costs- the prison Hashem found himself in; he was a man with freedom, who was really trapped, and a man with seeing eyes, who really couldn’t see. He was in a black prison with his eyes open…he was living a nightmare and didn’t even realize it until it was too late.