Children of Heaven
The film Children of Heaven is Iranian film released in 1997. The main theme in the film is family love and sacrifice they make for each other. The other important themes are dignity in poverty and effort that people make in order to survive as well as the contrast between urban and rural areas. The family is consisted of the parents, a son and a daughter and all of them are good people who happen to be poor and live in a poor neighborhood in Tehran. They are honest, hard-working and represent the society which is selfless and caring.
The family love is a major theme because it unites the family in a hardship. There are people all over the world who live in poverty and this theme resonates with their problems. The story is set in an Islamic city and “in the typical Islamic city, environmental and cultural elements dominant in the Middle East combined to produce a unique urban place” (Macionis and Parillo, 2012, 383). The place where the family lives is urban and children go to school while the father works. The scene which depicts the poverty of the family is when Ali, the boy is sent by his mother to buy some potato and does not have the money, but the owner says: “tell her that your account has reached its limit” (Majidi, Children of Heaven).
It seems that this family is rural and is not in touch with civilization because of its poverty. “The story of civilization became the story of urban history. Yet we must be careful here. We often assume that civilization automatically means progress – that what exists today is somehow a better form of what went before” (Macionis and Parillo, 2012, 233). The family from the film is the example that not everything that belongs to modern times means progress. The father of the family does manual jobs in order to make money to support the family while the mother is a housewife. There is much love and respect in this film which is in contrast with the bad conditions of living in this urban area.
The story is set in a city in spite of the fact that the area is not urban and that the neighborhood is poor. “Nations played important roles in the development of very early cinema even though one could not yet call it national cinema” (Mennel, 2008, 10). Tehran is a city in which poverty is an issue and people have to be honorable at all costs. Their cultural customs and religion forbid them from doing wrong or being immoral. There are severe punishments for that. The fact that the story of the film revolves around two children is due to the censorship which does not allow for the interior of the family home to be filmed. Therefore, the story of love, compassion, self-sacrifice and poverty is told from the perspective of the children.
The location is Tehran, but “By making borders increasingly permeable to capital and commodities, globalization is a force that has substantially increased the global exchange of goods, including cultural products” (Mennel, 2008, 11). Therefore, all the main themes in the film Children of Heaven are a global issue and not only a problem in Iran. There are specific cultural aspects related solely to Iran, but the humanity, compassion, love and other emotions which make people beings capable of empathy are present in all the societies in the world. These issues are difficulties that need to be conquered in order for the world to become a better place. Globalization means also that cultural issues are spread around the world which makes the themes from the film identifiable anywhere. Compassion is what makes people human and respectful for each other and that is the dominant theme and feeling in this movie.
Children of Heaven is a city film because it describes a family in a certain city and in the Islamic culture. There are films which “combine a contrast between the rural and the urban environment with a developmental narrative from rural to urban” (Mennel, 2008, 25). The scene when the father and Ali go to the rich neighborhood to offer gardening services describes this issue and represents the contrast between the rich and the poor. Rich neighborhoods are inherently different than poor because the system of values is different in different areas.
Tehran is the character in the film as well because it represents different people and different areas. However, some of them share the same humility and kindness in spite of being from different backgrounds. Education is what pays and that is why Ali is depicted as one of the best students in school and can socialize with rich children as well. The scene that brings people together is the one when the father and Ali are going through a rich neighborhood looking for a gardening job and end up in an old man’s mansion. There is the evident contrast between rich and poor people in this film which is blurred by the expression of human emotions. There is no modernity in this film, because of the fact that it represents the culture of Iran which is traditional, but people are genuine, generous and kind in spite of all the fortune or misfortune they go through.
The compassion in the film is told from the perspective of the boy and the whole community seems to be considerate as well. Everybody treats everybody else with respect which is seen in the scene when the boy, Ali is late for school for the third time because of the misfortune with his sister’s shoes and goes unpunished because of being a good student. All of this happens because of poverty which is a problem in any society. However, people should learn to love and respect one another and then there will be a chance for a better world. If the humanity as a whole adopts global problems as their own, then they can work on solving them. There is no person in the world who can live on their own which is why people live in communities and communities are connected to one another. This is a time when the wealth of a person should be measured according to their feelings of empathy, respect and the possibility to help other people and not according to their financial state. However, the individual who wants to be a good member of the society needs to offer help at any time to those less fortunate in order for their live to be fulfilled.
There is dignity in poverty in this film which is seen from the way the children are brought up. The son, Ali is an excellent student and shares his only shoes with his sister showing gratitude to his parents. People who are poor often lack motivation, but the characters in Children of Heaven are striving for a better life which can be seen from the scene when Ali competes in a race and wins the first place so that he could help his sister. The theme which is explored here is sacrifice which people make so that they could live in a better world tomorrow and make the world a better place for their loved ones. Helping people though self-sacrifice is what only a morally superior human being is capable of doing.
The themes in this film are universally applicable and that is what makes it worth watching. There is the question what makes a movie great and ready to be preserved as one of the masterpieces. “Most academics would stress their historical value more than their artistic worth, as if the two were somehow mutually exclusive” (Thomson 37). Films are supposed to make people aware of the problems in the world and Children of Heaven is a film which deals with poor people who are proud and generous in spite of all the misfortunes. Health is often overlooked in the modern world and sometimes, people are reminded of its worth when they no longer have it. Being happy and healthy can help a person rise from poverty and become a respected member of the community. However, it cannot be done if a person does not possess other human qualities.
Children of Heaven is a film which has themes than can touch the soul of any person because it shows people how to be compassionate and understanding. People often forget that they should keep their dignity at all times and are often uncivilized and bad mannered in poverty. They often lack empathy for each other and do not think about making personal sacrifice for another human being. However, it is important for people to do good because it pays to be generous. Poor families should stick together and be humble and productive because it is the only way to improve their social status which can happen through education.
Macionis, John J., and Vincent N. Parillo. Cities and Urban Life. 6th ed. New York: Pearson, 2012. Print.
Mennel, Barbara. Cities and Cinema. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.
Thomson, David. “When is a Movie Great?” Harper’s Magazine 2011: 36-39. Print.
Majidi, Majid, dir. Children of Heaven. Miramax, 1997. Film.