Monday, September 10, 2012

A Separation

“He is a good man.” So says Simin (Leila Hatami) about her husband in the opening scene of A Separation, in which she explains before a judge (off-screen) why she seeks a divorce. Not the words one would expect to hear in a divorce hearing. Nevertheless, sitting next to Simin, her husband Nader (Peyman Moadi) is indifferent to the proceedings. We gather that he loves his wife, but he obliges with her request because his priorities lie with his ailing father, who requires care that would prevent the couple and their child from leaving their home country of Iran. Simin and Nader’s situation is not unlike the conflicts that many married couples face. What distinguishes A Separation is how perceptibly it articulates the circumstances within which the two become entangled.
The film unwinds as an uncommonly observed tragedy about Simin and Nader, as well as a handful of other characters that play in the evolving drama. The conflict eventually escalates and results in a chain of events that is as compelling as it is unpredictable. All the while, writer-director Asghar Faradi keeps a tight focus of the human scale and what really drives these folks to their actions, even as misunderstandings heighten and deceptions occur. None of these individuals wishes to inflict pain on those around them but nonetheless do—out of pain or mistrust or simply fear. A Separation never resorts to violence, but it resolves in an arguably more devastating way. And it plays out so convincingly because Faradi doesn’t have the agenda that shapes many other stories about broken connection and communication. Thus, the drama unfolds smoothly and with the further aid of an understatedly intimate aesthetic that sharpens the film's emotional verisimilitude.
A Separation went on to win the Oscar in the foreign language film category at the 2011 Academy Awards, but there was little doubt that it would have performed otherwise. Due largely to the influence of the Weinstein brothers on Oscar campaigning, the race in many categories is seldom about artistic merit. However, A Separation represents an example in which a genuinely great work deserved the recognition it received from being awarded Oscar Gold. It resounds beyond its own intimate settings and focused dramatic scope to channel a much broader human struggle of navigating the complex trappings of political, religious, and cultural identity. A Separation is about the intersections of these facets of ourselves and where and how they collide in our relationships. (Asghar Farhadi, 2011) ****


Anonymous said...

In the opening scene Nader gives his father's need of care as just one reason for not wanting to leave Iran. He claims there are multitude of reasons for not leaving, about which Simin is well informed. Presumebly neither party wants to tell the magistrate (or the censors) about the other reasons!
Could the father be a symbol for the real reasons to stay in Iran?  Farhadi may be meaning to construe the father to stand for Iran, and dementia to be the affliction brought upon the country by those who trample upon Iran’s ‘ancient and glorious culture’; whether from inside by the fundamentalists or from outside by the ‘coalition of the unwilling’ through sanctions and threat of aggression.  Nader wishes to stay behind to help defend the ‘Fatherland' and safeguard the ‘glorious culture’ by facing all challenges from within and without, plus passing down to next generation (Termeh) all the resilience required for its further development. 
On the other hand, Simin being a modern, individualistic and cosmopolitan woman, would prefer (the peano scene) to take the easy way out: stay out of trouble, take her daughter with her to Canada and leave behind: her native country, the fundamentalists, the foreign aggressors and the patriotic defenders of the ‘glorious culture’ to fight it out.  No wonder she is branded as a coward by Nader. This, in spite of the fact that she tries to keep her umbilical cord to tradition by picking and borrowing one of Nader’s CDs featuring classical Persian music.
Does this sound a plausible explaination?  We have the hindsight of Farhadi’s acceptance speech at Oscar’s, which shows how closely he identified with Nader.  When, in a later interview, he is asked if he considers leaving Iran to avoid possible difficulties? He retorts : 'who would abondon home because his child has fallen ill?'

Ted Pigeon said...

I certainly hadn't reflected on the film to this extent, but your comments bear serious consideration as to both the characters' intentions and the broader significance of the film's structure and narrative execution. The film is wonderful because it is both direct but also applicable to a host of other cultural, religious, and political issues without being overtly symbolic.

Anonymous said...

On the question of half-truths and lies, this is how I would see the situation. Nader obviously does not think that Termeh would get a better upbringing by leaving for life in Canada (where educated Iranians usually get an immigration visa), attached to a cowardly, though loving mother who pays her way out of obstacles (the piano scene) instead of standing up for what is right. After initially consenting to accompany Simin, he now douts if Canadian free ‘education’ is worth the political apathy and hedonism being nurtured by politicians and the mainstream media in countries of North America. Should telling lies be an accepted and tollerated monopoly of politicians, while the young are kept innocent only to become future compliant voters? Or would Termeh really grow up to be a better citizen when she learns that even his morally correct father may be hiding some truth from the magistrate, in order to be able to fulfill his duties towards an ailing father (read Fatherland) and his young daughter (read the next generation)?  In her turn she chooses to tell an obvious lie in order to protect his father from the blind spot of a rigid law and let himt survive to attempt to build the country into a better place for Simin to return to.