28/05/2018

Children Of Heaven - Where Shoes Carry You

Quick Thoughts: Children Of Heaven (بچه‌های آسمان‎, 1997)


Made by Majid Majidi, this is the Iranian film of the series.


I cannot remember the last time I watch a film and was so thoroughly transfixed and emotionally attached to what was occurring on the screen as I was today. Children of Heaven is a pure masterpiece and a quintessential exemplar of the realist cinematic tradition. Like many other great realist works, this is a beautifully simple film, smaller than small yet bigger than big. Most reminiscent of De Sica's Bicycle Thieves and Kiarostami's Where is the Friend's Home, Children of Heaven is about survival balancing on the edge of a pin with its central symbol representing, not faith and employment as in Bicycle Thieves, not loyalty and education as in Where is the Friend's Home, but a synthesis of all such themes within a thematic bubble of responsibility. What carries all of this film's meaning is then a pair of shoes, which in turn carries a brother and sister.

As a child, like most children I suppose, my shoes were a significant element of my life. Shoes meant that you could play, that your feet were safe, and so they sat at the bedrock of your consciousness, far more significant than you'd ever realise. That is, until you ruined them. And I scuffed, tore, ripped and ruined a lot of shoes. This meant that shoes rose up into the fore and dominated as the problem of all problems in my rather unproblematic existence. Ruined shoes were a source of embarrassment, pain, trouble and unknowing. You knew you were going to get in trouble, and you knew the price of new shoes was the reason why.

Shoes meant much more than this as you got older; you had to have nice shoes and the right shoes and so the problems only ever worsen. As a consequence what is both literally and metaphorically underneath you, carrying you through life, becomes a force of physical and existential weight as it essentially calls into question what you do with your feet.

Your shoes, as representatives of yourself, let a lot more through to others than you'd like; this is particularly true for children in school. Thus you have to become responsible for them, and in turn, you have to become responsible for how you walk - both literally and metaphorically. And such is the crucial focus of Majidi's narrative. It tracks the ways in which two children take responsibility for their shoes and, in turn, the way in which they walk through life. One of the narrative's greatest questions then concerns what you call to yourself, and what you simultaneously run towards, by travelling in the right way and taking care of one's shoes as you know you must. This opens up the narrative to the idea of confronting fate and questions of how your feet can essentially feed and be embraced by the world around you with water and fish as symbols of the world and positive archetypes of the unconscious mind.

Alas, without wanting to spoil this film--and without having too many words to confront it as of now--I'll end with a firm recommendation to see what I can comfortably call a new personal favourite.

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