The least political filmmaker of Irans new wave of cinema, Majid Majidi is also its most humanistic and spiritually attuned. His films emerge like fables, stories that reveal more about the human condition and the existential graces of being than mere character driven narratives. Unlike his Baran and Oscar nominated The Children of Heaven, Majidi now focuses his attention on Irans bourgeoisie adults in The Willow Tree but retains his exploration of the disability last observed through the young, sightless Mohammad from 2000s The Color of Paradise.
Majidi sees divinity in all things human nature, love, anger, innocence and sensuality. Working from the understanding that there has to be a bigger picture, a force larger than what is perceivable, Majidi offers a tacit journey of negotiating the tenuous line of acceptance and indignation. He annotates his display of religiosity through Youssef (Parvis Parastui), a middle-aged professor of literature who despite being blind since young, has carved out a promising career and a family devoted to him.
The professor feels a deep connection to God and just like the director, views obstacles and tragedies as a series of tests to be endured and to fortify his spiritual constitution. Just as suddenly, its determined that Youssef has an operable tumour behind his eye, setting the road for events in a clinic in Paris that lead to Youssef regaining the use of his sight.
While in most films, the abatement of despair comes from the healing of illness and disability; The Willow Tree sees beyond the banality of a happy ending and reacts to the capricious impact of change and shattered cognitive inventions. It considers the substantiality of what is imagined to be true and the veritable, hardened realisation of reality that comes with Youssefs portentous gift. After convalescing in Paris, he returns home to Iran and rediscovers and reevaluates the beginning of the rest of his life.
The stark, striking shots that consists of small spaces and laconic characters are precisely calibrated to instill subtext thats analogous to Youssefs poetic stance on life. Most prominent are the glorification of the newfound sense, reinvigorating our latent appreciation for sights and sounds. The Willow Tree is most enthralling when it boils down to a microscopic level of reassessment of a middle-aged man who reconnects with his desires and the world, while fixated on the paralysing panic of a life misspent and the reconciliation of his past and future.