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The film Children of Heaven by Majid Majidi Iran was nominated for an Academy award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Note the use of visual image and sound during the opening of the film. Why is this important to the rest of the film story?
The film starts with the focus on the much worn pink girl’s shoes being repaired by the shoemaker. No word is said while he is doing it, and the only noise is heard is the sound of some street activity and marketplace near-by. When shoemaker is working, the camera is so focused on the work he is doing, that the viewer can only see his hands and needle he is using. Only later, the shoemaker can be seen, and a boy, who is waiting for the shoes is picked up. These shoes became a source of trouble for the boy and the center of the story line.
How does the choice of camera and location of cameras for interior shots make the audience feel about the home in which Ali and Zahra live?
During interior shots, cameras are placed at the height of children when they are sitting. And many shots are close ups. This allows narrating the story as it is seen from the children’s view and through their eyes. It also highlights the traditional way of life in Iran. Low angles cameras placement also gives an impression of the crumpled living conditions of the family.
How is this different from the exterior shots? How do we feel once outside the house?
When the scene is taken outside, the angle of view is much broader. At the same time, the shooting is done mainly straight, along the long and narrow city streets Ali and Zahra have to pass on their way to the school and back. Sometime, their home’s yard is shown from the high angle, and that gives the picture of the world children live in. The director uses close ups a lot. This provides a special way of narration, when the viewer’s attention is drawn to certain details without narrating it audibly.
Comment on the use of lenses (how can you tell?)
The lenses are used to create and to highlight specific effect. For example, to make sure Ali’s tears are noticeable, especially on the bright sunny day, specific lenses should be used. When Ali is running the race and remembers his conversations with Zahra, the background “fades away”, and picture focuses on him. This is also the effect of the lenses used. Many scenes have very clear close up and background views, with no accent on perspective. The director wants to create other feeling instead and uses lenses for it.
Comment on a particularly effective scene – how was it composed, what was the strategy of the director and director of photography? How was the mood related to you?
The race scene is very effectively photographed. There are many different strategies the director implores to relate what exactly is going on. While the camera mainly stays focused on Ali running, it also gives flashes into how other boys run, how many of them started to run and who is at the finish; the camera zooms out for some moments to show the surrounding area, the flow of the river, the nature that seems to be so tranquil in contrast with the emotions of the boy running. Sometime, the picture is shot in the slower motion to show the turmoil in Ali’s heart. Then camera focuses on the road to the finish to show boy’s anticipation, determination, and perseverance to fight to the finish. The scene is accompanied by Ali’s heavy breathing which also shows how difficult it is for him and how his desire to help his sister motivates him to keep running.