I grew up watching Majid Majidi’s films at different and crucial junctures of life, whether it was “Children of Heaven” (1997) or “Baran” (2001) which upheld spiritual purity and spoke of selfless love. So I may be biased about his mammoth film, one of Iran’s most expensive film till date but a fact I would like to share, I was totally immersed into the world of Muhammad for 2 hours 42 minutes as well as impressed.
Majid Majidi’s “Muhammad: The Messenger of God” narrates the events, trials and tribulations of the city of Makkah in 7th Century AD. By the order of Abraha, King of Habasha, one of his army commanders launches an attack on Mecca in order to destroy the Kaaba. He leads a well-equipped force of thousands of soldiers, horses and elephants. As the army approaches Mecca, the elephants respond to divine order by halting and refusing to continue. Millions of small birds then release a hail of stones onto Abraha’s forces and the army is annihilated. A month later, Muhammad is born. This film depicts the pre-Islamic Arabia as seen through the eyes of Muhammad from birth to the age of 13.
To begin with, one of the characters exclaims “its a beautiful dream” and so is the film. An astonishing, stunning old-fashioned and simple narrative revolving around the Prophet. To watch and inculcate a highly religious film, one needs to have some kinds of beliefs and faiths- either religious or cinematic. The events and dramas which precedes the birth of Muhammad are immersive and the causal relationship of the variables stand strong, giving rise to belief. This ain’t a story out-of-the-world, it is as much as a story of injustice followed by rise of Messiah. Although, Majid Majidi doesn’t constantly remind us that we are watching a religious film- it sticks as a humanistic approach in a lavish cinematic and poetic manner.
We see Muhammad in white-clad, always sparkled and mostly from back- the sanctity towards the faith and beliefs are maintained. And “Muhammad: The Messenger of God” comes off as an well-intentioned and an honest film. Those unfamiliar with the weighty subject matter would (may be) find it difficult to watch the characters suit themselves awkwardly. Its like a fairy tale, the characters here whether Muhammad’s Mother Amina or Grandfather Abu Muttalib or Uncle Abu Taleb or even the kidnappers are just cutouts, they are not seen to have any strong psychological base.
Majid speaks poetically throughout even though its like a detailed paperwork executed by creative minds. The plight of the poor or the injustice is rendered and healed spiritually by Muhammad, I’m an atheist but still I fell for the faith and beliefs put forth by Majidi- maybe because of the cinematic magic or spirituality? Watch the scene of “Ababeel Birds” intersected with “King of Christ” as “Divine Light” is showered- you’ll believe in Cinema. But it works in parts and the parts leave greater impact than the whole.
The painstakingly done Production Design is the most accomplished and crucial part which is upheld by Vittorio Storaro’s magnificent Cinematography. Vittorio shoots Muhammad with a Steadicam in an interesting way, we are shown the world through his perspective. But the fussy and abrupt editing by Roberto Perpignani leaves the viewer confusing and the transitions don’t work for enchanting long shots of the deserts. Majid Majidi’s direction is honest and impeccable but there’s a new spiritual touch to his work- for obvious reasons, nevertheless he captivates.
Music by A R Rahman. Speechless!! This is my longest review in terms of words and duration to pen down because I played the score on loop and savored it as much as I can. Many of you might know about Rahman’s spiritual dedication, that ignites his divine touch in the Middle-Eastern musical. This musical score is something never attempted by Rahman (but reminiscent of Hans Zimmer) and comes of as stunningly weird and “there’s something about it which my words can’t justify” factor. “Through The Sands”, “Ababeel” and “Ya Muhammad” are my picks. And find the soundtrack on Youtube.
“Muhamaad: The Messenger of God” is a faithful cinematic deliverance by an honest Iranian director and also a film which took 7 long years. Eagerly waiting for the two sequels.
“May the peace be upon Majid Majidi”
Language: Persian, Arabic, Turkish
Release: 27 August, 2015 (Iran)
Director: Majid Majidi
Copyright ©2017 Ninad Kulkarni. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.