24 October 2004 | butterfinger
Majid Majidi's Children of Heaven is such an extraordinary work of movie-making that it is in a realm of movies that are able to connect with anyone who remembers (or is amidst) their childhood, regardless of what country they come from. (Note: Films that have a universal appeal aren't necessarily better than films that only appeal to people from one or two countries, but making a film with a universal appeal is no easy task.) A boy named Ali (Amir Farrokh Hashemian) loses his sister Zahra's ((Bahare Seddiqi) running shoes; Zahra threatens to tell their father (Mohammad Amir Naji). Petrified at his father's temper, Ali promises his sister that he will get his sister some new shoes as soon as possible. In the meantime, the two work out a tight shoe-switching schedule. The plot is inventive and provides some decent chuckles-good writing and comic timing. Hashemian is likable and relatable though he milks the babyish whimpering to an annoying extent. Naji is able to give us a stronger feeling that we are watching a real person on screen than any of the other actors in the film. It is not until the last ten minutes of the film, however, that we are swept up in a crazy whirlwind of emotion, jolting from despair to joy to suspense (though not in that order) and the last ten minutes can make a movie great. Majidi gives us homage to The Four Hundred Blows. The ending to Majidi's movie is somewhat similar to that of Francois Truffaut's; both movies contain the feeling of extreme desperation, but Ali has a goal in his life while Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) is boldly going nowhere. Truffaut's film concludes with brilliant ambiguity, leaving us wondering whether Doinel's last five minutes on screen were triumphant or pathetic; Majidi does something quite similar (less ambitiously) in a way I would not dream of revealing.