We Want to Separate
This newly minted Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film had already been making the rounds at the festival circuit before its American accolade, picking up a slew of awards along the way. Its win undoubtedly piqued keen interest in the film given the praise lavished upon it by critics and film circles, with screenings here being nothing but full houses. And it's little wonder that A Separation, written and directed by Iranian Asghar Farhadi, is gaining traction and becoming the film darling of many, since it props up Man at our worst behaviour, and is very much an honest reflection of our deep down, inherent propensity to cover ass, in our own little perspective prism that we try to impose onto others, especially when we're backed against the proverbial wall.
You should already know a little bit about the much talked about film by now, with a storyline that's fairly straightforward, betraying little of its layered statements about life, the relationships we keep as well as our individual survival instinct striving to be the fittest in the jungle, coupled with the self motivated, selfish interests we pursue, and all these performed regardless of age, gender or culture. It's what makes us human, flaws, warts and all, that A Separation transcends beyond its celluloid shelf life, and lives on, way past its closing credits, putting up a mirror in front of ourselves, that we see similar values and intrinsic human behaviour that transcends country, language and race, to show how basic and common we humans behave no matter where we are.
It starts with an impending divorce, where we face the couple Nader (Peyman Moadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) squarely, and learn that their matrimonial life is on the rocks. She wants a divorce given that her husband doesn't want to uproot the family and live overseas in order to provide for a better life for their daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). He on the other hand finds this demand quite unreasonable, given his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi) suffering from severe Alzheimer's Disease, and he being the filial son having to care for a parent who had brought him up and nurtured him. Things don't improve in this very long take, with voices escalating and each side relentless in their stressing upon their respective points of view, that it results in a stalemate of sorts, lose-lose to all in what couldn't be a mediation done successfully.
Now with his wife moved out to live with his in-laws, Nader struggles with the daily chores, having to take care of a sick elderly as well as tend to the needs of a growing child, that he hires Razieh (Sareh Bayat) through a recommendation by Simin as domestic help, a woman who is deeply religious, and the first signs of cracks appear when she has to call up the religious authorities to find out if she can handle a man she's employed to look after. And the problems extend to her having a hot tempered husband to complicate matters, where Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini) is heavy in debt and his being jailed causes what would be the catalyst to a series of events involving his wife's continued employment in Nader's household, Nader's father wandering off because of her inattention, and Razieh being forced out of Nader's apartment by the latter when Nader discovers some ill treatment to his dad, ultimately resulting in a miscarriage suffered by Razieh that Hodjat soon escalates to the courts.
Much of what A Separation then deals with, is pretty unpleasant stuff. Unpleasant being that all characters start to rear their ugly head of self preservation, and we witness first hand a lesson on morality and ethics that Asghar Farhadi so brilliantly weaved into his screenplay, and direction that doesn't distract us from his casts' wonderful performances. We also witness, if this is to be believed and true, how the justice system works in Iran, where the magistrate more often than not makes some questionable requests for eyewitnesses, in a process that won't fly in many other courts around the world, since it is subjected to, and very open to corruption and compromise in very blatant ways, providing opportunity to the obstruction of justice or to cover up what would be the truth, meddling in it, and serving to confuse if necessary.
But just is how the Truth is defined, is also what makes A Separation such an ace. We don't get to see what the sequence of events is either, and have to rely on accounts by those involved, and other eyewitnesses present. We watch how society is really male dominated, and that certain professions give you an edge in being trustworthy, or how class also plays a part in the decision making process. If you're of reputation, chances are your account will hold more weight, and the converse is true as well. If anything, it is a very pointed argument and case made against how things operate in country, and a call for change since the audience is forced into also making the same decisions based on information, and misinformation that permeates through society, with every party being very conscious about how their account will have impact on the persons they are talking about, and worse of course if there's vested interest in the status quo of certain relationships. The truth becomes how you argue it, and how you define and defend your version, skewed naturally, against other versions thrown in your direction.
A Separation is not an easy film to sit through, because it is taxing as much as it is emotionally draining having to deal with so much negativity that the characters display. Everyone is constantly raising their voices to force their points across with arguments getting very long drawn out affairs, and you're bound to notice characteristics you see in others, as well as oneself, that makes it really uncomfortable for cutting so close to home. But Asghar Farhadi forces you to acknowledge the truth in our selves, and by and large A Separation is a very well made film for its solid production, ending it in the best way possible and that's to be open for discussion and discourse. It requires patience and endurance, and is recommended stuff!