In his 2005 film The Willow Tree (Bīd-i Majnūn), Majid Majidi offers a complex moral commentary on the faculty of sight. To do so, the filmmaker draws from Sufi theories of gazing, in which desire must be for ultimate meaning (maʿnā), as conveyed through the vehicle of perceivable form (ṣūra), a distinction with both metaphysical and ethical implications. Majidi presents sight, when devoid of contemplation, as a sort of voyeurism, especially in contrast to the privacy and immediacy of speech and especially within the context of the modern city. Moreover, his use of a blind protagonist whose sight is suddenly restored makes Jacques Lacan’s (d. 1981) psychoanalysis an especially useful tool for understanding the implications of Majidi’s film: In Majidi, much as in Lacan, the gaze undoes barriers and a sense of self-mastery, arousing the protagonist’s obsession with the void and an insatiable desire. Through references to Sufi ethical writings and a protagonist morally defeated by the image-centric media of contemporary urban Iran, The Willow Tree explores problems of representation and commodity fetishism. The resolution is a response to what might be called “moral voyeurism” that highlights and laments the artificiality of modernity’s objects of desire.
Zargar, Cyrus A.
"The Gaze and a Sufi Ethics of Vision in Majidi’s The Willow Tree: Form, Meaning, and the Real,"
Journal of Religion & Film: Vol. 24:
1, Article 55.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/jrf/vol24/iss1/55