Film of the Week: A Separation (2011)
Filmmaker : Asghar Farhadi
Language : Persian
Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning Iranian drama is a rich and arresting look at the lives of a couple, Nader and Simin, who are confronting a break up as they want different things for their family. Simin wants to leave the country and escape its rigorous social institutions and theocratical laws for a world where women have more freedom and children have better education — particularly for her 13-year old daughter, Termeh. Nader says this is out of question as he has to take care of his ailing father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. They appear in front of a judge seeking a separation and as they lay out their respective cases, we get to see the kind of heartfelt and honest comedic banter that is a result of living together for 14 years.
In fact, the whole film is a series of hard and gritty case-building for its adults – Nader, Simin, the house-maid they employ as Simin leaves to live with her mother, and her weary and resentful husband who is initially unaware that her wife is working in a household that doesn’t have an adult female. Our allegiances keep on shifting throughout the movie as we see the logic of everyone’s positions and this leads us to a deeper realisation that often the root of human conflict is not a personal flaw but an obedience to social norms, laws, and one’s sense of duty — it can be analysed and understood better when examined along social fault lines rather than individual ones.
In this world of grievances, angry confrontations, and family burden, compromise isn’t a solution, precisely because it is another step within this vicious cycle, not a step outside of it. This makes this emotional ride of people trying to do good and keep their families floating all the more exhilarating and tragic. The most deeply affected in this tragedy are the two children, Termeh and the maid’s kid daughter who accompanies her mother everywhere.
In the film, people’s demeanours and idiosyncrasies seem to be a result of years of judgement and policing, which can be equally light hearted and solemn to watch and by employing the right amounts, Farhadi is subtly able to raise questions and highlight flaws in Iran’s Islamic regime. Moreover, Farhadi has shot the film as if he is filming theatre and by doing so, he puts us right at the heart of these characters’ struggles with their lives and each other, wrapping us in their emotional intricacies, and confronting us with brutal and honest truths about humanity. A Separation is a narrative of immense grit and power that is capable of sweeping even the most unyielding of humans by their feet.