I just finished watching this Iranian movie called "Children of Heaven" (Bacheha-Ye aseman).
Thank you so much for gifting me the cd of the movie Sumeetha!! :)
Coming back to Children of Heaven, its one of the most beautiful movies i have seen in a very long time. (This one time i will not tear a movie apart but will give a decent review!! ;) because this movie is really worth a watch!!)
The story revolves around two children Ali and Zahra aged 6 and 8 respectively whose father is a poor tea server in the mosque. One day Ali misplaces Zahra's shoes while going to get them darned and knowing their father's financial position they hide the fact that Zahra doesnt have a pair of shoes from their parents and secretly decide to manage with a single pair. Since Zahra goes to school in the morning and Ali in the afternoon they manage with a single pair of shoes which results in Ali often going late to school and getting into scrapes with the headmaster.Ali gets a chance to take part in the sprint contest conducted by their school and prize offered for the person at the third place is a pair of sneakers. Ali decides to participate, come third and get the sneakers for Zahra . He accidentally comes first and is given a different prize and not the pair of sneakers.
So from where do i start praising the movie? Let me start with the characters of Ali and Zahra. I have never seen such natural actors. At some point in the movie you forget that you are watching a movie and not the real life replay of 2 children. The child artistes emote so beautifully. Be it joy or sorrow or pain or fear or anger they are so natural, Darsheel Zafry of TZP would pale in comparison.
There is especially this scene when Zahra wears the sneakers (basically boys shoes) for the first time to school. She is scared that in PE class the teacher will catch her and tries to hide her shoes behind her desk. And then the teacher announces that in PE class it is best for the girls to wear sneakers because they will help you run and jump much better and appreciates the girls wearing sneakers. The change in Zahra's expressions from apprehension to fear to relief to pride is so beautiful you want to hug the child and give her a new pair of shoes.
Some of the other scenes which stand out in my mind are when Ali comes first in class and is awarded a gold ball pen by his teacher. Though he himself wants to keep the pen he feels guilty and responsible for losing Zahra's shoes and gives her the pen. Zahra is angry with Ali because not only has he lost her shoes but also scolds her for coming late from school every afternoon because of which he is forced to go late. Zahra threatens to tell their parents. So when Ali gives her the pen her pensive face breaks into a shy smile and she tells him that she did not tell their parents. Ali grins and says "i knew you wouldnt"
When Zahra sees her lost shoes on the feet of a classmate she is shocked but when she realises that the girl has a blind father Ali and Zahra do nothing about it and continue to suffer the agony of sharing the pair of shoes.
The bond between the brother and the sister is shown extremely beautifully and the fact that the children are enormously adorable helps a great deal. When Ali's father has some money Ali tells him to buy a pair of shoes for Zahra. The selflessness, innocence and the pure heart of the children touches your heart and strikes a chord somewhere.
The ending is beautiful and Ali's expressions when he realises that he has accidentally won first place and denied Zahra a pair of shoes is priceless.
I cant say enough about the wonderful acting of the two children and I think you should see it to believe it. Its a movie which is worth watching and Indian directors would do well to take a leaf out of movies like this. No loud dialogues, no unnecessary characters and absolutely no melodrama. I think the beauty of the movie lies in the way the director has dealt with emotions so subtly and the understated acting of the children!!
Do watch it if you get an opportunity!!
P.S: Personally i think this post was too sensible for my taste!! :P. Blame Aravind and Sumeetha- They are the ones who got me hooked on to foreign language movies. Errr. I dont know if hooked is the right word. I have seen 3 foreign language movies and i have liked all three!! :)