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A Separation. Directed by Asghar Fahradi.
“What is wrong is wrong... No matter who says or where it's written.” - Nader.
Heavy, complex and tragic; critically-acclaimed Academy Award-winning film A Separation is a refreshing spotlight on Iran’s much overlooked and crowded out rich cultural heritage and art making.
Showcasing its complexity on a backdrop of elegant and well-paced, breathable scenes, this film is as much about the slice-of-life heartbreak of divorce, as it is of class struggle, pride and truth, morality and survival.
As an unhappy wife leaves in frustration, a phone number is scrawled down, a guilty gesture of thoughtfulness to help find a new carer for her husband’s reliant elderly father. In this simple afterthought the sister-in-law of a friend is called upon, and circumstances tip an unfortunate and painful series of events into motion, exposing the true motivation of every character involved.
Truth is the central theme that eventually lifts the veil of entrapment for all, but not without the searing pains of suspicion, accusation, and mistrust. Beginning in a divorce tribunal, the film ends with the viewer poised in a similar position, with questions. Emotional ties and allegiances shift, as each character is unraveled under the pressure of changing circumstance. There is the stoic, devoted and seemingly honest husband and father Nader (Peyman Moadi), the meek and devout housekeeper Razieh (Sareh Bayat), and her “hot-headed” yet endearing husband Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini), struggling to keep things together.
As the viewer sits poised as the jury, one gets the sense that honesty, communication, humility, were perhaps the antidotal building blocks, albeit administered to all parties too late. Truth instead is choked, and rots amidst fear-induced lies and battered emotion.
A modern-day tragedy, the nuances of A Separation are perhaps best portrayed through the eyes of the film’s most minor characters. Standing present and cumbersome as the silent witness, Nader’s father possesses a wealth of patriarchal wisdom, untapped and locked shut by Alzheimer’s disease. Also secondary to Nader and Simin’s agendas, their daughter Termeh finds herself in the middle, being forced to choose sides when all she wants to do is make peace. And as the multiple trips to the magistrate’s office pile up, so too does the paper on his tired, overused desk, hearkening to a nation in knots of religious and political red tape, yet shaded in a multitude of greys.
“I believe that the world today needs more questions than answers”, director Ashgar Farhadi says of his film, in reference to the subtle ambiguity of its title. Yet while some questions arise through cultural translation, at large they pertain to very universal themes: that of marriage, child-rearing, family, honor, tragedy and faith.
A film with high tensions and painstaking subject matter, A Separation hovers overhead awhile, as subjectively objective as an interesting cloud in the sky, it sits sadly with one further as the closing credits roll, before it is absorbed into the atmosphere of informed subconscious thought.
Written by Emma Schoombie, 26 March 2012