New Delhi: 'A Separation', an Iranian film written and directed by Asghar Farhadi is a rare, brilliant story of an estranged woman-man relationship which also encompasses universal themes of gender, class, religion and morality.
The movie starts off with the long, single take courtroom sequence of Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moaadi) pleading to the audience (actually the judge but his back is to the camera)their respective issues leading to them asking for a divorce. Simin wants to shift out of Iran to seek better opportunities for her daughter but Nader refuses to because he wants to take care of his father suffering from Alzheimer’s. The judge dismisses their plea stating that their disagreement is too small to warrant a divorce. The audience (in its capacity of the presumable intended judge) is left with mixed feelings- it is never easy to take sides in such cases. Right or wrong is only a matter of relative perception.
This theme forms the pervasive, subtle subtext as the story progresses to involve the other characters. Simin decides to temporarily shift to her mother’s house while their daughter Termeh (the director’s daughter, Sarina Farhadi) chooses to stay back with her father. Nader hires a domestic help named Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to take care of his ailing father and tend to household chores in his absence. Razieh comes with her own share of woes- she is pregnant, has a gruelling travel everyday with her small daughter and has an unemployed, irascible husband Houjat (Shahab Hosseini) from whom she keeps her job a secret.
\'A Separation\', an Iranian film written and directed by Asghar Farhadi is a rare, brilliant story.
There is an unfortunate, accidental turn of events which quickly spirals out of control and morphs into a full-fledged, messy legal imbroglio. The adults fight, abuse and lets term it ‘tweak around with truth’ and caught in this are the side characters- the kids and the ailing father. The most poignant is Termeh who is compelled to play her own role in the adult drama of truth suppression and bitterness while unwaveringly holding on to her young, unaffected faith that it will all work out in the end and her parents won’t split.
'A Separation' has a superlatively well written screenplay and though it is set in Iran and imbibes lot of local cultural references, it can be a story of any place and any family. It is a heartbreakingly honest tale of our weary and faulty reality of class biases, gender conflict, a law which is frequently inept and love which is so often burdened with too much anger and stark reality. The director brilliantly nuances the narrative and the moment you start empathizing with a character, he brutally reveals a fact or facet making you rethink your loyalties. The acting is of the highest order with as much being conveyed by angry words as by reproaching glances and pregnant sighs.
The movie won several accolades at the Berlin Film Festival and is Iran’s official Oscar submission. But forget these credentials and just watch this if you, like me, have been starved of an intricate, complex, intimate and non-simplified/simplistic film. For me it’s the best piece of film writing of 2011.