By Meera
A Separation - Iranian Masterpiece, A Separation, Iranian Masterpiece


A Separation is the 2011 Academy award winning masterpiece directed by Asghar Farhadi. Amidst severe censorship and government arm-twisting, Farhadi manages to direct this poignant tale that focuses on everyday life in Teheran. A Separation marries the travails of family life with the suspense of a thriller leaving the audience gasping and weeping in equal length.

The film opens with Nader and Simin opting to dissolve their 14 year marriage by applying for divorce. Their arguments reveal bits of their life – Nader’s father suffers from Alzheimer’s, Termeh - their adolescent daughter, life in Iran being tumultuous, and the judge orders the grounds insufficient. With little choice left, Nader employs Razieh, a young devout woman to care for his ailing father. The plotline revolves around the incidents that occur after the arrival of Razieh – why doesn’t Razieh want her husband, Hodjat, to know of her employment, why does she leave the old man chained in the house, do Nader and Simin resolve their conflict, would Termeh have to choose between her father and mother?

The narrative unfolds in layers. The simple scene where Termeh’s tutor hands out the phone number of a gynecologist to the pregnant Razieh becomes an exchange of intense scrutiny later. The personalities of the characters are not viewed as black or white but waver in shades of grey. Nader wants to tend to his father even if his father has no knowledge of his son. He is a decent man in complete control of his emotions. Yet under severe stress, would he hurt a pregnant woman? Simin is a dutiful wife and caring mother. She does not want to abandon her family but also desires the best for her daughter. Would she choose to convict her husband to escape the country? Termeh wants her parents to reconcile and live under one roof. Would this aching wistfulness force her to lie in court? Razieh is a pious Muslim who consults her religious elders before tending to the old man. Would she disregard her treasured principles for money? Hodjat is hot headed and physically abusive. Would loss send him over the edge to commit an unspeakable crime? These questions are not answered readily but are left looming in the background. As the story unravels we understand that as human beings we tend to falter and fall. How we pick up the pieces is what matters most.

A Separation with sharp editing and superb story telling won numerous awards. From sweeping the film festivals in Berlin, Vancouver, Durban and Melbourne it also pocketed the coveted Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The film’s leading pair Leila Hatami as Simin, Peyman Moaadi as Nader portrays their roles to perfection. Sarina Farhadi  as Termeh, laces her eyes with longing and vulnerability. Iranian life with severe class status, strict Islamic rules governing everyday rituals and gender roles dictated by religious authority are highlighted. But the movie does not focus on the politics of the country. Instead by emphasizing the significance of humanity and showcasing the inner turmoil, Asghar Farhadi wins our heart.

At a time when the world looks at Iran as a nuclear nation and a country that has more foes and friends, a movie spanning 120minutes opens the door to the lives of people on this turbulent soil. They nurture comparable dreams, share the same emotions and live startlingly similar lifestyles. Yet we consider them to be different. A Separation not only chalks the distance between a husband and wife but also emphasizes the obvious disconnect between heart and mind.

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