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2011 was especially bleak for films in general with the exception of a
few. This film however towers over all the few bright lights that
emerged and gave it a kick in the chest to bring to life of what has
otherwise been a forgettable year. "A Separation" is a film which hails
from Iran, a country which despite it's oppressive regime has always
managed to surprise the world with a few film gems of it's own, and
this might be the jewel in the crown. Directed by Asghar Farhadi, the
film talks about love, bitterness, sorrow and happiness that befall a
family during it's arduous times. In this case the tumultuous period is
personified by the separation that the two main characters are going
through. This is not because that they are not in love with each other
anymore, but because their circumstances and their goals are far apart
from each other to achieve any hope for reconciliation. The wife wants
to leave for America because she believes that the move will bring hope
to their daughter's life. The husband does not want to go because he
has to care for his ailing father who is suffering from Alzheimer. Both
the causes are noble and are for the things they deeply care about, but
it is also tearing them apart and brings forth further predicaments to
all characters within the film as it puts into perspective the lengths
people will go to protect, not only their families, but also
The film is a return back to grounded realism and the influences to the film can be attributed to Ozu, Satyajit Ray who used simplicity to tell their story to enhance the aspect of reality. The directing in the film uses a perfect pace to piece together the events and the director creates a screen to personify his neutrality, as he engages the crowd to assess what they think. This was a technique used by Ozu with a certain guile which has never been matched, but I am sure even the Japanese Master would appreciate the feat achieved by the director. Farhadi did however use some aspects of fundamental camera grammar created in Hollywood film-making to express the varying reactions to the characters embroiled in it. The writing was ingenious and strayed as far away from melodrama as possible to create a scenario where the screen was inhabited by ordinary people and dealt with their feelings with a certain subtlety rarely seen today. The acting was unbelievable and it strengthened the mood for realism as the director got great performances from Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat and Shahab Hosseini. Their characters were very different and they dealt with their situations as such but the actors hit the note with their characters to show their desperation, their fear, their love in a way which was believable for them to do so. The star of the film was Sareh Bayat who should be nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Razieh, Nader's father's nurse, and it also brought to screen the genius of the young Sarina Farhadi (the daughter of the Director) who was on screen not because of her father, but because she deserved the merit on her own as proved. All in all, this is a great film and it would be a major crime if the Oscars do not recognize it's greatness simply because it is not in English. Nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Actor and Best Supporting Actress are certainly due unless the Academy loses it's brain once again. A great watch for everyone and if you haven't seen it, see it now so that you don't miss out on what has truly been the film of the year.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) are a middle-class,
modern, urban Iranian couple. They have been married for fourteen
years, but they're separating. They were going to divorce, but the
court ruled that their situation wasn't dire enough to warrant it. They
each have their side of the story. Simin desires to leave their
country, as she does not want her eleven-year-old daughter, Termeh
(Sarina Farhadi), growing up under current conditions. Nader, on the
other hand, wants to stay so that he can look after his elderly father
(Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), now in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's
disease. Their situation becomes much more complicated after an
incident, one directly involving the caregiver Nader hired to watch his
father during the day. What begins as a simple argument between two
people quickly escalates into arduous legal action and a heated battle
over what really happened.
"A Separation" is surely the best film of the year. Apart from being a portrait of characters that are just as fascinating as they are compelling, it's an intelligent and uncompromising examination of culture; within the course of what appears to be a simple narrative, we will have been told a thing or two about gender roles, parenting styles, personal values, the rule of law, and religious beliefs as they apply to present-day Iran. Although not a courtroom drama in the Hollywood sense, it has the superb plotting of a tightly-wound legal thriller, the characters in a desperate struggle to reconstruct a singular event out of several accounts. It is, above all, a timely and universally resonant story of responsibility and truth, the latter of which proves to be open for debate.
I want to word the rest of my review as carefully as possible, as the incident in question is dependent on actions that shouldn't be spoiled. Based on Simin's recommendation, Nader hires a lower-class young woman named Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to be his father's caregiver. Deeply religious, Razieh went against her own traditions by applying for the job without the approval of her husband. She resorted to this only because her family is desperately in need of money. There are three reasons why she proves herself the wrong person for the job, although I will only reveal two of them. First, getting to Nader's apartment requires a grueling commute on several buses. Second, she's forced to bring along her daughter, who's clearly too young to be in an environment of a man with Alzheimer's. It's not just a question of exposure to something potentially traumatic; in her innocence, she doesn't see the harm of fiddling with the pressure knob of his oxygen tank.
My careful wording will now devolve into maddening vagueness. Someone makes a very bad decision, leaving someone else's life at stake. Not long after, something goes missing. The person it belongs to immediately accuses someone else of stealing, and indeed, this someone else does have a motive. This leads to a verbal altercation, which then leads to ... the incident I've alluded to several times now. At this point, an already challenging film transcends itself by drawing us into a twisted moral quandary. Several pivotal characters are introduced as the incident turns legal. We meet Razieh's husband, Houjat (Shahab Hosseini), who has been unemployed for several months now and cannot speak without resorting to anger. We also meet an upstairs neighbor, who may have witnessed something important, and Termeh's teacher, who testifies on behalf of Nader.
Caught in the middle is Termeh, who not only must endure her father's legal troubles but must also watch as both her parents continue to fight. We're repeatedly compelled to ask ourselves which of them truly has her best interests at heart, although that would be senseless simply because it's never as clear cut as we would like it to be. This is the kind of film in which we can identify with both sides of an issue; each character makes valid points, just as each character makes weak arguments. The more we learn about the situation, the murkier it becomes. That's because there's far more on the table than a series of actions.
What it really comes down to are the beliefs with which we shape our lives. For Razieh, it's a matter of her faith, to which she is bound. Consider the fact that she's forbidden from touching a man other than her husband; when she discovers that Nader's father is incontinent and has peed in his pants, she must make a phone call to determine whether or not she can change him. For the secular Nader and Simin, it's a matter of personal pride. One will propose a financial settlement while the other will refuse to take part in it, as it will come off as an admission of guilt. They both think they know best, not just for their daughter but also for the situation at hand. By the end of "A Separation," more than one person will be faced with making a difficult decision, one that will depend entirely on their understanding of what they perceive. And isn't that was truth is? Perception? -- Chris Pandolfi (www.atatheaternearyou.net)
one of the best films i've seen in the last couple of years is surely
'a separation'. most of the award winning iranian films i'd watched
before were either political or were showing a very dark image of the
country but unlike those 'a separation' is a social drama. it's very
rare that a foreign film gets praised by both national and
international critics and audience.
Farhadi's film takes us into lives of some ordinary people but with his brilliant script he takes our breath away and the suspense stays with us all the way until the end.
another admirable thing about this film is that it shows us a real insight from inside Iran, not the way it was presented to us by Hollywood. it made me feel so much closer its people, they're not so different from us.
and there was only one movie i gave a 10 in 2011 and it was 'a separation'. if you have n't watched it yet do yourself a favor and watch it.
"A Separation" is the foreign-language film of this year's awards
season. After it won the Golden Globes last week, you know it is a
cinch to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film and most
probably win the coveted prize for its country of origin, Iran.
"A Separation" is about a middle-class Iranian family. In the first scene, husband and wife are divorcing after 14 years of marriage because of a disagreement on migration. Wife wants a better life abroad, while husband does not want to leave his Alzheimer-stricken dad. Caught in the middle is their 12-year old daughter. When wife leaves their home, the husband hires a poor woman to be his dad's caretaker while he is at work. From there, this harrowing family and societal drama evolves into situations you will not expect. The climax and the ending were so effectively executed. You will not want to leave even while the final credits are already rolling.
It appears that director Azghar Farhadi is really a big name in Iran, and that he already has previous acclaimed films. I will want to check them out. His control of his story and his actors (who you would not even remember are acting) is amazing. You get sucked into the story, and you will not want to get to the bottom of things until the final resolution. It has an underlying allusion to the conflict between the old and the new customs. It is an interesting peek into the family dynamics, religion and criminal justice system in Iran. I have seen only one other nominee in the last Golden Globe, "The Flowers of War." The scope and genre of the two films are vastly different and is hard to compare. But I could say that "A Separation" is the tighter and better- written film.
Simplest in its approach, minimalist in its presentation, economic in
its creation & artistically subtle
A Separation is one of the
perfectly flawless films of 21st century and arguably the finest that
Cinema of Iran has offered so far. It's a riveting, suspenseful drama
that is highly gripping & involving, tough to let go, morally &
emotionally draining but in the end, it's totally worth it.
It's difficult to say whether it's the writing or the direction that's the best part of this film because Asghar Farhadi has done a tremendous job in both fields and the film is only elevated to further greatness by its sheer perfection in other filmmaking departments like performances, cinematography, editing etc and even with its simplest narration manages to keep the best of our attention throughout its runtime.
Definitely the best film of its year & certainly one of world cinema's finest, A Separation is a gritty portrayal of a domestic life in contemporary Iran that is destined to be remembered & admired for a long, long time. An Instant Classic. A Solid Masterpiece. Strongly Recommended.
Full Review at: cinemaclown.wordpress.com
This is unlike any movie you have seen.
The depth of the character development is a refreshing change from the Hollywood genre. The characters create an emotional storm from protagonist to antagonist on a dime. At the end of the movie, ask yourself how much you relate to the characters, and you will come to the same conclusion.
The carefully crafted story is genius. Topics from the law, to dedication to family, religion, and the truth all come to light. This movie will leave you thinking. As with the entire Persian movie genre, expect it to challenge you personally and institutionally. The open ended plot will leave you talking about this movie for years to come.
The acting is absolutely haunting. I have never seen a movie bring to light the chemistry and absolute Stanislovsky approach to acting that this movie does seamlessly.
Roger Ebert called this the best movie of the year. For me, it was the best movie of the decade.
I wouldn't have been more glued to the screen if I watched a
blockbuster action movie. I've seen too many of them, I forget them
before the credits roll. Now, it's a film without any nudity, crime
lords, drugs or swearing to pin me down for a breathless, profound two
What is morally right? What is morally wrong? What is legally right? What is legally wrong? It depends, is the film's answer. And do you know what? I agree. I agree with this answer from a film that comes from the other side of the world, from a country which I perceive to have religion and politics utterly different from mine. Because the film transcends the detail, it just shows the essence of being human. The characters just keep on trying to do the best for them or their family in credible situations which can apply to anyone and anywhere, but the choices they make will conflict at one time or another with some moral or legal tenet. The husband, the wife, the daughter, the old man's carer, the carer's husband, the daughter's teacher, even the judge they all want to do the right thing, but they don't. Or do. Or don't. Or do. The beauty of this film is that it just tells the story. It doesn't take sides. It doesn't force on us an opinion on whether the choice was right or wrong. If it tried, I probably wouldn't have liked it as much, because it would have to conflict with some of my own views. Everyone has firm opinions, until life carries you to situations like this film's, and then nothing is black and white any more.
For as long as there are creators like the director and writer of this film, there is hope for the independents. A story like this will beat any Hollywood-esque film to the punch. It's flawlessly played and it's technically well done. It doesn't need more to move me.
A Separation is not only a film with a good story but it also shows a
different image of Iran and the people who live there. We always have a
wrong image of them because the occidental media want us to think that
they are different from us (the occidentals) but they are not. They
are people who work, who pick up the children at the school, who have
personal and familiar issues just like we have. It really should have
a good distribution to change this way of thinking.
The film is beautifully made and the characters are built like real humans not superficial or predictable as we have been seeing in a lot of mainstream films. They are strong - in their personalities and emotions. But, as real humans, they do something that we usually do: lie. The film - and the audience will only discover this at the end - has its whole conflict based on this issue. Just to show us how one lie can lead to misunderstandings that we don't have any control.
Overall, it is a simple film but complex at the same time simple because it is not a big production, but complex because it deals with so many human emotions that even us in real live sometimes can't deal with.
Where there is limitation, lurks beauty and art. This best justifies why "A Separation" engulfs the viewer to contemplate on more than meets the eye on screen. In a cinema (Iran), which barely leaves any room to openly debate, or perhaps pitch into beliefs and disbelieves, this gem ingeniously sneaks out from dilemmas involved in matrimony state of a couple, depreciated and devastated enough to take refuge in a separation. "A Separation" is about inability of judiciary system when it comes to moral phenomenons, while ironically implies on corrupted legal systems and its vicious regression. We are being asked by many complicated questions during the entire movie. A predicament where an immaculate child is condemned to confess what is not ethically right, nor is true, just in order to sustain the union of her semi-disjointed family viable. Farhadi masters the story while developing it in such a way which incapacitates the viewer to make unequivocal and straightforward judgments by asking labyrinth-like questions within a situation where all of us could have been through. Last but not least, through the entire movie the viewer is somehow being interrogated about the inevitable intersection of religion, faith and beliefs.
Leading up to the Oscars, I like to give my attention to the films
nominated in the main categories. Foreign Language is usually a
favourtie of mine since foreign films seem to capture the genuineness
of human character so much better than ordinary American films. A
separation is no exception.
Although different movies in their own respect, I find myself compelled to compare this movie to Oscar nominated "The Descendants." The story and plot may be different, but they are both character driven and accordingly a comparison is necessary, especially considering that the quality of character study in both movies has considerable disparity. In short, A separation succeeded in every respect The Descendants failed.
The Descendants felt like it forced comedy into a drama, which did not fit well at all. Although comedy may stem from drama itself, having it as a separate theme in the movie was a big downfall in my opinion.
A separation, in comparison, focuses on drama. It is a much more realistic portrayal of human character and potential actions and choices they may make. Occasional comedic comments are made, but not to the extent that it is "comedy" per se, but rather you laugh at the situation itself. For instance, in one scene, the father tells his daughter that what her teachers at school have taught her is wrong (from an academic perspective, not moral). The daughter replies that she must however write the "wrong" answer in the test otherwise she would be deducted marks off her paper, to which the father replies "let them." It's a moment where we get to both smirk at the situation and also understand the sense of beliefs and values of the family.
The true gem of this movie lies within its script, plot and acting. The acting is superb. The script is marvelous. And the plot evolves in such a manner that it questions our very own beliefs of what is right and wrong in one of the most complicated scenarios ever created in a realistic drama. I have never seen so much "gray" in a film. The right and wrong actions of characters are blurred to such an extent we end up sympathizing with them all. That is the beauty of this film. No one is better than the other. Everyone is wrong and justified at the same time. Everyone is human.
I will be showing this movie to as many people as I can. I was truly touched.
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