Original review featured on the Doha Film Institute website.
This year’s Oscar winning film in the Best Foreign Language category is Asghar Farhadi’s fifth feature, the absolutely thrilling ‘A Separation’. The victory in February marked the first time a director has taken an Academy Award back to Iran.
Set in modern-day Tehran, Nader (Peyam Moadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) are on the verge of divorce. Simin wants to leave Iran with her daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) after struggling for 18 months to get a visa. Nader wants to stay with his father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Unable to compromise, Simin leaves her husband to live with her parents. Termeh, played by the director’s daughter, decides to lead the battle her way. Staying with her dad, she hopes, will force her mother to remain in the country and return to the family home.
Feeling solitude’s pressure, Nader hires the pregnant, lower-class Razieh to take care of his ailing, demanding father. Razieh works against her husband’s will and knowledge. In contrast to Simin, she’s a religious woman desperate to support her unemployed spouse who is, if it couldn’t get any worse, weakened by the threat of jail by his creditors.
One day Nader returns home from work to find his father tied up to his bed, on the floor and about to die. Razieh (Sareh Bayat) is nowhere to be found. When she returns to her now furious employer, they engage in a struggle with unexpected and unfortunate consequences.
‘A Separation’ is a simple yet layered drama, paced like a thriller. Each memorable scene is spectacularly acted and so naturally that audiences will feel like these characters could be their next door neighbours.
It’s a separation of a couple with different priorities; Simin’s future is up against Nader’s bitter reality. The only character trying to hold everything together is the torn-between-parents Termeh, an almost universal and familiar fate for crumbling families. It’s a separation of classes; the educated elite vs. religious labourers. Both struggle to survive regardless of the moral or physical conditions that may threaten them. In between the troubled tales, Farhadi drops in events which provide a glimpse into what lies beneath society’s cover.
‘A Separation’ is like a literary masterpiece printed on film. It triggers different interpretations and is a genuine reflection on the nature of human beings and their relationships with each other. Questions abound over honesty, compromise, total innocence and guilt. It’s also a portrait of a city, misinterpreted by many as purely fanatic and radical.
This is 2012’s best film so far, the kind that you probably won’t be able to separate from, maybe forever.
The film will be screening in Katara Drama Theatre as part of DFI’s year round screenings. Don’t miss out! Book your tickets here: http://www.dohafilminstitute.com/films/a-separation