Movie: Children Of Heaven

We enjoyed the movie, Children of Heaven, last night. It’s about 2 Iranian siblings who share a pair of sneakers to go to school.

One detail that I glommed onto and couldn’t get over was the maze of narrow corridors between the dwellings and shops. I know these are common in old cities, and maybe new cities in some places, but I’ve never actually experienced them. The thought alone gives me the heebie-jeebies: the closeness, feeling trapped, possibly getting lost and never being able to get a good look around, the lack of sunlight, never being able to see what’s right around the corner. In the movie, these corridors slanted to a gutter running down the center. The thought of constantly walking on a slanted surface does not appeal to me. A tiny, drafty cabin, alone, in the middle of endless tundra is more to my taste, but I enjoy imagining myself in other places, even when it gives me heebie-jeebies.

I also glommed onto the simplicity and poverty of the family, something I can at least sort of relate to. While I don’t care for the problems caused by poverty, I find simplicity appealing. I don’t need “stuff,” or heaps of external stimulation (movies, restaurants, bowling, etc.) This family seemed to live in 1 room, slept on the floor, and a pen was a cherished object to the kids, as were the shoes. Part of me wants to live like that: notebook and pen, fabric and thread, yarn and needles…but out in some wide-open space, please.

No car chases, no violence or murder, and best of all, no flash editing. Just a good story about people, their struggles, and their desires. In other words, my kind of movie! And it was a window into Iranian culture. I think we’d do well to watch more movies from and about the Middle East right now.

As with all movies, I think about the story and what changes I would make to it. Spoilers ahead: don’t read if you want to watch the movie without knowing things that happen! The worst part, IMO, was the boy persuading a teacher to let him try out for a team after tryouts were over. The boy claimed he “forgot” about tryouts, but we saw him watching them from his classroom. The teacher caves because the boy cries and begs. Ick!

I’m aware that something could have been lost in the translation, which wasn’t great, but the story would be better if the boy had a good excuse for missing the tryouts, and there are many ways to do that–not having the shoes, for instance, because his sister got held up at school or something. Having the boy try to be there, having him make a noble effort, but circumstances preventing it, makes me root for him. Having the boy not try hard to make the tryouts, then having him cry and beg, does not make me sympathetic.

The other change I’d make is to the end. End spoiler–you’ve been warned! I love that he wants to come in third in the race so he can win the sneakers, and that he’s actually disappointed to come in first, but I want him to bargain for the sneakers or something, trade a better prize for the sneakers, anything so that he gets the shoes. We see that his father buys the kids shoes, so we know he and his sister will get them, but I want the boy’s efforts to produce the desired result.

Worst of all, the movie ends with the children being disappointed. We know they are getting new shoes, so we know they’ll be happy when their father gets home, but I want so see it and share in that joy. I feel gypped.

I wonder if the choice to have the father buy the shoes says anything about Iranian culture. Is it somehow important for the father to be the one to save the day? How would my altered ending be perceived by an Iranian audience?

A good movie. I’m glad we saw it.

Categories: Personal

3 replies »

  1. It sounds like a wonderfulfilm. Not having seen it, I agree with both of your “improvements”. I love to see kids succeed, but don’t like to see things handed to them, especially as the result of manipulation.

    The simplicity is one of the things which I cherish out here. Many of the children I work with live in simple homes, often only one or two rooms. They do have the wide open space you prefer. Not many still live in hogans, but some do. Many have no electricity or running water. The beauty is that most do not consider themselves poor. They appreciate the richness of what they have. They treasure what they have and where they are. I have seen a stooped old woman sweeping her dirt floor.

  2. No electricity and running water…it’s not a bad way to live. Of the 2, it’s running water I appreciate most, even though I use electricity more often.

  3. If I have books and batteries in a CD player for music, I could do without electircity, but I’m very partial to hot water. Just not as tough as I once was!