A Separation (2011)

A Separation (2011) – There’s been a lot of talk about Iran lately. President Obama has said that “nothing is off the table” in dealing with Iran. He’s the moderate. While it’s quite possibly just saber-rattling to rally the base, pretty much all of the Republican candidates (save Ron Paul, not a fan of foreign wars) have been talking about a likely war with Iran. Why, I’ve never been too clear about. Is this particularly relevant to the content of the film A Separation? No, not really. It’s an Iranian film, sure, but it’s story is a personal one not particularly pertinent to world affairs. I’m mostly just using this to pad the word count (Why exactly, I’m not sure, as I have no editorial oversight that I’m held responsible to. This is just my blog.) Due to the tense global situation and especially the hostility of Iran to Israel, some people were outraged that A Separation won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. (Beating out Israeli film Footnotes, no less. Iran’s Ministry of Culture hyped this up.) I believe quality film-making can thrive in any culture. Sociopolitical context is important, but let’s not lose sight of the content of a film.

The titular separation is between Nader and Simin (Peyman Moaadi and Leila Hatami), a couple of 14 years with an 11-year-old daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi, the director’s daughter). Simin insists her husband is a good man but she wants to leave the country to raise Termeh elsewhere. Nader has to stay in Iran to care for his Alzheimer’s-stricken father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi). He will consent to the divorce but not to Simin taking Termeh out of the country. Iranian law is on his side so Simin is pretty much screwed. Newly single, Nader hires Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to care for his father. Soon problems (best left unspoiled) arise and Nader finds himself in conflict with Razieh and her husband Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini). While I will not spoil the nature of the conflict, I will say that which side is in the right and which is not is played ambiguously for most of the movie. By the end of the film some questions are answered and others are left maddeningly unresolved.

A Separation keeps its focus on the intensely personal struggles of the main characters. There may be an implicit criticism of Iranian society, or that may just be how my Western eyes perceive it, but the film lets its characters serve as the crux of the film rather than any overt political statement. The film also very careful not to overtly take sides. You could side with Nader, Simin, or Razieh given what you’re told in the film. Even when the facts become clearer you can still sympathize with any one of them. Asghar Faradi has crafted a nuanced film that, while slow at times, is never less than fascinating. While there’s no question that the Oscars are overly politicized, they SHOULD be about rewarding the best film in a category. I’ve not seen the other four nominees but it’s hard to imagine that they did any other than that this year.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: