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Nader (Payman Maadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) argue about living abroad. Simin prefers to live abroad to provide better opportunities for their only daughter, Termeh. However, Nader refuses to go because he thinks he must stay in Iran and take care of his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), who suffers from Alzheimers. However, Simin is determined to get a divorce and leave the country with her daughter.Written by
When Simin and Hojjat's sister are talking to Hojjat, the fan behind Hojjat is on at first, but off and facing a different angle in subsequent scenes. See more »
Your daughter's future isn't important to you?
There are a lot of children who live in this country. You say none of them have a future?
I prefer my child doesn't grow up in this situation. I have the right as a mother.
[Simin doesn't reply to him... ]
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A gripping and heart-pounding universal masterpiece ... made in Iran ...
"A Separation" is an intense and powerful examination of the eternal conflict between human emotions, personal convictions and Law, whether political or religious, and it happens to be –I believe- the best film of 2011.
The movie is set in Iran, in an upper-middle class area, and features a series of unfortunate incidents, all guided by sincere and genuine emotions, but that nonetheless end up judged by the Islamic Law. Written and directed by Ashgar Farhadi, the film is a triumph on the field of intelligence as it never patronizes the viewer by pointing a finger on an obvious 'antagonist'. Ultimately, the victims are not innocent, nor the accusers are wrongdoers, and the only 'responsible' is a Law that fails to take into consideration human feelings.
Still, Law isn't negatively portrayed as it remains true to its obligatory neutrality, a notion hinted in the very first scene of the film. Indeed, the realism and intensity of the dialog, a back and forth verbal fight between a wife and a husband sets in the very first minutes what would be the enthralling tone of the film. The core of the conflict is not unusual in family dramas, it's about a child custody, Simin (Leila Hatami) wants a divorce because her husband Nader (Peyman Moadi) refuse to emigrate in a country that would –in her opinion- provide a better education to her daughter Termeh, Sarina Farhadi as a strong-minded adolescent yet the hostage of an inextricable situation, even more ironic because the two parents don't want to divorce.
But Nader gives legitimate reasons to his refusal: he must take care of his father, an old eighty-something man suffering from Alzheimer disease. "But he doesn't know you!" "Yes, but I know him", this brilliant exchange plays like the movie in microcosm; it's all about contradictory opinions guided by legitimate emotions or convictions. When the opening scene ends, those who agree with Simin's arguments understand Nader and vice-versa. If there is ever one, that's the greatest achievement of Farhadi's Oscar-nominated screenplay; still, the force of the script enough couldn't have elevated "A Separation" to such a universal and miraculously unanimous acclaim. The film works as a perfect combination of writing, acting and directing to such an extent that it could have easily been nominated to more than two Oscars without garnering much surprise.
Farhadi's direction is perfect for this kind of narrative as it uses a hand-held camera work in many scenes, as to create the dizzying and uncomfortable effect of documentary-like realism. The film reminds of Cassavetes' naturalistic work in the way it conveys a sort of one-set room intimacy and place the viewer in the unsettling situation of a witness, caught in the middle of a scene, I mean by 'scene' an embarrassing and uncomfortable situation. We just see and watch, and our hearts pound from these displays of aggressiveness, hostility, cries, shouts and thankfully sometimes, love and affection. Farhadi's film is a masterpiece of storytelling on that level, proving that even plain dramas can be as emotionally engaging as thrillers, and the film does it so well that the content can invite any audience to question its own legal system, no more or no less immune from similar issues.
Law has been established by men in order to find the truth within the chaotic succession of facts that can speak for two opposite sides, but the genius of "A Separation" is that it deals with a particular situation where no one is aware of all the facts, even the viewer is left with some hints and clues, and can only assemble them as the movie progresses. Razieh (Sareh Beyat) is a young religious mother hired as a caregiver for Nader's father. She has a miscarriage and pretends it was caused by Nader's brutality. Nader claims he didn't know anything about the pregnancy and was upset because she left his father alone. The domino's effect introduces the peripheral characters as Simin wants to protect Termeh from Razieh's hot tempered full-of-debts husband Hodjat (Shahab Hossein) who vents his anger on the system, and through his scene-stealing performance paints an indirect social commentary on actual Iran.
The film is full of confrontations that are some of the most realistic ever: everything in the dialogs and the acting sounds true and make the whole experience so nerve-wracking that we never know if we're embarrassed to see these lives being destroyed or because the script didn't let us determine which side we're supposed to take. But "A Separation" is beyond these sterile considerations: it's not about sides to take or opinions to make, it's about the innate limits of Law. Law is even incarnated by a decent judge who shows some signs of reason and magnanimousness sometimes, and sometimes can't handle Hodjat's outbursts of anger. In a way, he embodies our position as the powerless observer of a situation that goes out of control because it engages a wide range of emotions, sometimes positive, sometimes negative but always sincere, creative a psychological cocktail about to explode if a resolution doesn't come to appease the nerves.
The resolution, or let's say, the conclusion, is satisfying because it never betrays the film's 'philosophy' and leaves us with the penetrating sensation that we've just watched a miracle, a modest creation whose emotional and intellectual force spoke some uncomfortable truths about human nature and its antagonism with Law's cold realism. And on the surface, it also features an Iran far from the current stereotypes launched by the infamous "Not Without My Daughter", where women aren't all submissive chador-wearers and men macho wife-beaters.
(I feel terrible to pollute this review with these comments because they insult the intelligence of the film, which already takes for granted that 'Iranian are normal people' but regarding the actual and scary political context, I guess it's necessary)
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