Monday, January 16, 2012

A Separation (2011)

A Separation implores us to think of the consequences of our actions. Not only on our ourselves, but more importantly on others -- and even more importantly, on the ones we love.

Shortened for its English-speaking viewers, A Separation, an Iranian film by Ashgar Farhadi, originally goes by the title, Jodaeiye Nader az Simin, which I believe translates to "the separation of Nader from Simin." I can't say for sure; I left my Iranian-to-English dictionary at home.

The film was awarded the Golden Globe for "Best Foreign Film" last night, and after viewing it, I will go on the record by saying, come February, it will take home the Oscar as well.

The film begins in a court room, with our film's two primary subjects, Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moadi) pleading their case to an unseen judge for a divorce. I say unseen, because Farhadi uses a camera angle to give us a point-of-view perspective of the proceedings, as if we are the judge. Why he chooses to do so can be interpreted by the viewer; perhaps Farhadi wanted us to make our own judgments upon the couple.

The pair aren't getting divorced because of infidelity, nor as a result of any instances of domestic violence. In fact, Simin herself, says to the judge, about her husband, "No, he's neither an addict nor does he have any issues; in fact he's a very nice and decent person," to which the judge responds, "Then why do you want to get a divorce?"

Leila Hatami and Peyman Moadi pleading their case
Chalk it up to the age-old excuse of 'irreconcilable differences.' Simin wishes to move abroad, not wanting to raise her 11-year old daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi, whose last name should look familiar) in Iran. Nader, however, has no intention to leave, mainly because he needs to take care of his elderly father (Al-Asghar Shahbazi), who suffers from the dreaded Alzheimer's Disease. But the question is, what happens to Terhmeh?

And there lies the predicament. The classic dilemma of the divorce always lies within one fundamental question: How will the child(ren) react? In this case, Termeh seemingly is handling it pretty well. Though, without forming any deep animosity, she does blame her mother for the potential split, and remains with her father while the proceedings are ongoing. In fact, as any 11-year-old would, she idolizes her father. But how will further events, namely the divorce proceedings, affect that?

From this point on, the rest of the movie plays out like a ripple effect. With Nader and Simin living in different households, Nader is forced to hire a caretaker, named Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to nurse his ailing father while he is at work.

Without trying to spoil too much, an incident occurs between Nader and Razieh that results in criminal charges for Nader that could potentially result in years in prison. With the incident occurring before our eyes, the viewer is able to make their own conclusion as to who is at fault.

As if his life wasn't troublesome enough at the time, Nader is now involved in a messy criminal case -- not to mention a feud with Razieh's temperamental husband Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini) to go along with his messy divorce proceedings. And in the middle of it, still, is Termeh, who at one point, idolized her father. With the events, she is forced to make the realization that all children eventually do -- that her father is not a hero, but a man, with flaws, like any other.

Sarina Farhadi in A Separation.
With current divorce rates sitting at about 50% in America, A Separation is a film that many can relate to. Like Noah Baumbach's 2005 semi-biographical drama, The Squid and the Whale, the viewer is witnessing the immediate aftermath of a separation, and how all parties involved are handling the sticky situation, both mentally and physically.

As an Iranian film, I can't say exactly what cultural taboos this film may have breached while coming to fruition, both with touching a sensitive subject such as a separation, mixed with its making its way towards America, a country that isn't exactly deemed an ally, but they must be noted. Credit should be given to Mr. Farhadi for creating such a film, and doing it in such a human manner.

As the plot thickens, and events transpire, we watch how each character responds to said events, how they handle themselves, and what means they undertake to get what they want. Like the opening point-of-view scene in the courthouse, we are the ever-watchful eye, and we are surveilling, and judging, and trying to pinpoint which character is in the right, if any.

~ Review by Ddubbs

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