The Song of Sparrows – Movie

The Song of Sparrows is a 2008 Iranian film which reminded me of a story in Chapter 12 of “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis. Both in Lewis’ excellent book (in Google books) and Majid Majidi’s film, we see a theme of how small, poor decisions can slowly build a momentum to corrupt a person’s beauty transforming them into an entirely different creature. In Majidi’s film we fine fortunate redemption and glimpses of several segments of Iranian society.

You can read reviews here: Wiki , NYT , NPR , LA Times .

See Sabio’s other movie reviews here !


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

11 responses to “The Song of Sparrows – Movie

  1. Ian

    Good tip, thanks! Its difficult to find good recommendations for foreign language films.

    ‘Redemption’ in films is a bit of an in joke here. We realised that in any serious conversation about films, one could say about almost any film “well, fundamentally it is exploring redemption” and everyone would nod sagely.

  2. Hey Ian
    Yeah, I debated that quality. I thought of putting, “Morality”, “Message”, and others that did not overlap much. You are right, it is an inside joke. I really value “Redemption” in films — my wife doesn’t. So because of that, I started thinking about how to label our difference. Maybe “Message” is better — though films have lots of messages. Some may think this is a political film, economic film, sexism film, and could read in lots of other “messages”. Hmmm, if you or other readers have ideas, please share.

  3. Ian

    It wasn’t a criticism, just that redemption is one of those things that sounds deep and meaningful, but all films can be interpreted in that way (because satisfying human stories generally have that structure).

    But that isn’t to say that a particular film can’t actually be about redemption. I really wasn’t criticising your choice, just pointing out the in joke.

  4. Take action to improve your condition. While trying to implement your plan you will get screwed in small and big ways. The chances that you will not fully succeed are overwhelming. The chances that you will not completely fail are also pretty large.
    When the results are in repeat. The one thing that I thought the film failed to really show was the after action report. That is where you think about what you have done and try to imagine what you could have done differently to have been more successful.
    Another thing that I do not think would come across very well is to think about what your goals are. The father’s concern is immediate survival and solving the immediate problem of replacing his daughters hearing aid so that she can complete school. The children on the other hand are dreaming about becoming millionaires. Of course it is only natural for children to dream. What they dream is of course going to be highly influenced by thier environment. That children dream of being millionaires is a reflection that they live in a society in which people with great wealth are assumed to be worthy of it. It would seem to imply that they are respected as being wise. Yet anyone who has been exposed to Marx and other socialist or anarchits would say that great wealth is achieved only by committing great crimes.
    Finally the song about life being a lie and dream is an idea that any Sufi or Buddhist would find familiar. Is the implication to not take life to seríously becasue if you do the failures of life will get you down?
    I actually do not see much redemption in this film. The man beats his wife and his kids and he does not seem to question his beahavior at any point in the film. He is is a loving father and husband but like a typical American father of the 1950s or 1960s he is totally clueless about how is behavior can shape the developement of his children and his relationship with his family members.

  5. @ Curt
    LOL — that is why I don’t write reviews of movies — I am not good at it. And that is why I supply links. But better yet, readers like yourself can supply lots of great critiques for readers. I just tell folks how I felt about the film. They are always too complex for like or don’t.


    — I loved the father’s concern about the girl’s hearing aid.

    — I hated the father’s beating, of course. I think it disappeared later. This is always a problem set in a land with very different customs — bad or good — do you show them or not. I don’t think they were glorified, just part of the normal story — unfortunately.

    — Kids will dream. That part of the story was not touching for me, actually.

    — Yes the song about life is a dream was weird to me — I didn’t like it.

    — The man came back to see what he valued — no matter how shallow. Whether he intelligently acted on it or treated his wife and children with more respect we don’t know. I found the main character very irritating too. I liked my glimpse into Iran and at the real notion of slow sell-outs.

  6. What do you mean by a slow sell out?

  7. I had one serious gripe about this film. After the boys threw out a bunch of flowerpots (with flowers in them) that did not belong to them out of a truck to be able to remove a large plastic barrel filled with goldfish that had sprung a leak the film did not show that the boys suffered any consequences for this action. Serious financial losses were suffered as a result of their actions. It is true that under the circumstances the way that the boys acted was very plausible. Yet the film should have shown the audiance an adult explaining to the boy how they could have acted differently that might have resulted in an outcome with lower financial losses. Or it could have shown the boys themselves reflecting on their behavior and learning that they themselves should have handeled the situation differently.
    The way that the situation gets resolved is one, along with quite a number of other situations, that Muslims would see as the intervention of God in human affairs to teach people a lesson. Many Buddhists would see these situations as examples of Karma.

  8. @Curt
    The father started being dishonest to get the quick money — lying about license, selling the TV… That is what I meant by slow sell-out.
    — I agree, not consequence of smashing pots was very poor. As if to say, exaggerated destructive actions for what one is passionate about is tolerable. An idea I detest!

    I am not sure what you meant by your last paragraph.

  9. @ Ian :
    Thanx, I changed redemption to “themes” which I will explain in the posts.

    @ Curt :
    Thanx, I downgraded “themes” to a 3 because of the parts you reminded me that I did not like. But again, I am a great movie date — I often can dislike many parts of a film and still find value that I enjoy. Here, the educational element was important for me.

  10. Well I am not sure that he lied about his licence. Even if he did lieing about that is a different kind of a lie than stealing something from someone by fraud. Now if you say that you have a licence and you really do not know how to drive that is a really really bad lie. But if you have been driving for 25 years without an accident then it seems to me a mere formality.
    As for the TV I am a bit confused. I may have to go back and watch the film again.
    My understanding was he did not sell a TV. What I rember was that when he was taking a small refrigerator somewhere he flooded his motorcycle and fell behind the others. Because he did not have the delivery address with him he could not find where to take it. At that point he was tempted to sell it but then he saw the “Camelbirds” in the truck and was reminded that he had been fired once from a job so he decided against selling the fridge. When he brought the fridge back he was then given a permanent job as a reward. Unfortuanately fate had other things in store for him.

    What I meant by the last paragraph is that even though the boys damaged so many flowerpots that they were ultimately unsuccessful in saving almost all of their fish one could see that as a divine punishment. But I do not think the boys took it that way, nor would any non susperstitous person. Other things that happened in the film that seemed to imply divine intervention or Karma was when he gave some money to the man who was going to the shrine at Mashad for him to donate at the shine. A day later he got what could be understood as a 5 dollar tip. Then one could see the accident that he had which broke his leg was the Karma or the divine intervention comming back for hitting his wife and kids when they were selling flowers beside the road. There was an incident in which we was going to give some money to a girl who was begging but he did not have small change and did not give here anything. I do not remember now but if that happened before he stalled his cycle those two events could be seen as being connected.
    One thing that I do not like though about this whole Karma or divine reward or retribution outlook though is that unless a voice comes out of the heavens and explains exactly why someone is being divinely punished or rewarded the whole idea is worthless because people could draw any nonsensical conclusion about what they were being rewarded or punished for. They could even think that they were for example being punished because they did not beat their wife or child severly enough last time.

  11. Thanx Curt — good observations.

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