Time Out says
Dir: Asghar Farhadi (2011, 123 min). Cast: Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sarina Farhadi, Sareh Bayat
This is a foreign story that isn’t foreign to us at all. We’re no longer moviegoers in this film but spectators planted by director Asghar Farhadi to observe the debates, squabbles and anguish promoted by our characters in different settings – the house, the court and the cursed stairs that led to all the commotion. We assume the role of bystanders – analysing, judging and assigning different interpretations to the word ‘separation’. And each time we try to make sense of what’s happening in the film, we build a connection. We can immediately associate the values in the film with our real life experiences. This is how familiar ‘A Separation’ appears to us.
Farhadi ignored the prevailing issues that bog Iran down – war, economic malaise, and power struggle – but chose to make a film surrounding domestic problems, religious divides and marital dilemmas. In the film, we’re probably looking at a family feud that may just happen to any household in Iran. Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and Simin’s (Leila Hatami) divorce sparks the melodrama – the wife Simin wants to leave Iran so that her daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi), can lead a better life but the husband refuses as he has to take care of his father who has Alzheimer’s. Simin leaves the house and moves in with her parents while Nader hires a religious woman named Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to look after his father.
But Nader isn’t the only person living in a life of compounding distress. Razieh needs money to support her tetchy husband Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini) who’s lost his job. But working in a home of a man without another woman present is forbidden according to their religion. And unexpectedly, a twist of plot results in a murder court case. Here is where our characters reach an impasse – accusations and lies are hurled liberally to protect the truth… to protect their respective families. The children in this film suddenly undertake a heavier responsibility – their innocence becomes moral yardstick to evaluate the actions of the adults.
The search for the truth no longer matters because the domestic cataclysm in this film preaches about other more important things: Is lying still a sin if doing so could save your family? When will children stop being victims to our reckless and manipulative actions? Is our society ruptured by the demands of taboos, religion, politics and traditions? These are real problems. In fact, universal problems that plague every man and woman who is separated by class, cultural and gender differences.
But of course, nothing severs the heart like a separation between the ones we love. Farhadi has left us heartbreakingly disturbed with this morally taxing Oscar-winning film. The acting is faultless. The pace, though measured, pounds with compelling banter. ‘A Separation’ is an insight into modern-day Iran, as well as a societal cry that gets down to the very core of our human emotions. Kong Wai Yeng
‘A Separation’ is showing now at TGV Cinemas KLCC and Sunway CLUB.