The Willow Tree is the first film from Iranian director Majid Majidi to deal primarily with adults rather than children, but its main character—an awkward, laconic college professor named Youssef (Parvis Parastui)—is in many ways more childlike than any child. Blind since a fireworks accident at age seven, he is happily trapped in a comfortable world he calls “Paradise.” Roya (Roya Taymourian), his gentle amanuensis of a wife, types his papers and leads him back and forth between work and home. But when a risky operation suddenly restores Youssef’s sight, this domestic Eden vanishes, dispelled by previously inaccessible depths of beauty and ugliness. Youssef is sympathetic but not quite likeable as he methodically explores his new limits, flirting with other women and neglecting his students. For the first time, he can wander the streets of Tehran by himself; he can choose to be cruel, and he does. There’s very little explicit exposition here; instead, Majidi presents us with a series of glistening tone poems. He uses Youssef’s transplanted corneas as surrogate cameras, showing us what everyday objects might look like when vividly, brutally revealed to a newborn eye.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 24, 2007