Monday, November 24, 2014

A Separation

Jodai-e Nader az Simin; drama, Iran, 2011; D: Asghar Farhadi, S: Peyman Moaadi, Leila Hatami, Shahab Hosseini, Sarina Farhadi

A married couple, Nader and Simin, file for divorce: she wants to leave the country with her daughter Termeh, while he wants to stay. Once Simin leaves their apartment, Nader is in a pinch since he needs someone to take care for his father, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, while he is at work and Termeh in school, He hires a woman, Razieh, for that job. However, when he returns early from work, he finds his father on the ground, with his arm tied to the bed, in the empty apartment. Razieh returns and apologizes, claiming she had to leave for five minutes, but Nader fires her. In the commotion, he drags her out of his apartment. That evening, Razieh lands in the hospital and has a miscarriage, while her husband presses charges against Nadin for pushing her down stairs. Simin tries to make a settlement out of court.

Asghar Farhadi's most famous film - in international aspect - is a contemplative and ambitious intimate drama about family problems, with numerous bitter details that seem almost too painful, but that is refreshingly calm, emotional and genuine, congruent with Iran's meditative-conservative mentality. The main title, "A Separation", is actually misleading: the plot veers off of course to focus on Nader experiencing too much pressure at home when he has problems finding someone to take care for his old father suffering from dementia, and there is another storyline - the miscarriage trial - which quickly becomes the main plot point and carries the most weight. However, while this three plot structure may seem uneven, it is overall engaging and has power - the trial is definitely the main highlight: the viewers root almost the entire time for Nadir, who is an educated and rational man, whereas one questions the motives of Razieh, a woman from poor suburb who claims that she had a miscarriage after he pushed her downstairs. And that disputed event is directed wonderfully subtle: it comes when you least expect it, it happens in only three seconds and then the movie quickly moves on. But once when you rewind the film and return to that disputed event, it is clearly visible that Nadir indeed pushed her out of his apartment - and that, despite all the viewer's sympathy, he may, objectively, indeed be guilty. The message is devastating, namely that people may be gentlemen, cultured and sophisticated all their life, but that just one moment of carelessness might lead to catastrophic consequences. Farhadi manages to alleviate the mood, though, (after Nadir interrogates Razieh's little daughter in his home, he tells her she may go now, but adds: "Watch out for that stairs!") and crafts a honest and unassuming little film.


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