Movie review: “The Willow Tree”

We took out “The Willow Tree” on DVD tonight. It’s a film by Iranian director Masjid Masjidi, and it is set in Tehran, Iran.

The main protagonist is Youssef, a respected Professor (of theology I think) at university, who lost his eyesight at the age of 8 in an accident involving fireworks. He has a loving and devoted wife (Roya) and a gorgeous little daughter (Maryam), and they live in a beautiful house. When a tumour is found in one of his eyes, he flies to France to have an operation there… It is discovered that his retinas are sensitive to light, and his vision is restored through corneal transplants. When he returns home to his family and friends, everyone is ecstatic at the fact that he can now see. The only one who is unhappy is Youssef.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I won’t say anymore about the storyline.

We found it a rather sad and very slow-moving movie, whose ending was just heart-breaking, and absolutely not an ending I would have chosen.

But the movie was beautifully filmed. Often the camera zoomed very closely into details, blurring and sharpening, in a way that probably mimics Youssef’s own adjusting vision. It also focused on textures and the sense of touch, by showing Youssef’s hands touching items of furniture, walls, curtains, beads, stones, water features…. all things that he no doubt would have touched frequently during his 38 (?) years of blindness in order to orient himself in his surroundings.

During his stay in Paris, he met a fellow Iranian who is progressively losing his eyesight because he has a piece of shrapnel imbedded somewhere near his eyes. He tells Youssef that he could have an operation to restore his eyesight, but that it is possible that this will go badly wrong and that he will become blind. So he has decided not to have the operation at all and to become gradually blind. The interaction between these two characters raises many philosophical questions.

For me, the most important ‘message’ of the film was the need for gratitude for all one does have – health, love, family, friendship, work, all the senses… and not to take all these gifts for granted.

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For other movies we’ve watched in February, click on:

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