Cornerhouse Usher and Project Assistant Chris Daniels reviews A Separation.
Don’t miss Asghar Farhadi’s, award winning, tense drama that offers an insight into contemporary Iranian society.
The film starts with a married couple, Nader and Simin, reluctantly filing for a divorce to an off-screen Judge, on the grounds that Nader won’t leave Iran with his wife and ten year old daughter, Termeh (played by the director’s own daughter). Simin believes Iran is no place to bring up a teenage daughter and has acquired a Visa for the family but Nader refuses to leave because of his loyalty and care for his father who is debilitated with Alzheimer’s Disease. This first scene sets up the objective direction of the film by placing the point of view of the camera from the eyeline of the Judge so that the characters are addressing the audience directly and this begins the moral complexity and ambiguous but provocative questioning that Farhadi deliberately asks of the viewer.
The plot quickly develops into a thrilling courtroom drama after the hiring and firing of a lower class and devoutly religious couple, Razier and Hodjat, as the carers of Nader’s father, lead to an accusation that could land Nader in jail for the murder of Razier’s unborn child. We follow the resulting turmoil facing both families who are situated on polemic sides of Iran’s cultural classes and each family is portrayed fully sympathetically and well-rounded.
The film raises many questions to the viewer but refuses to answer any for them. The seperation of the film’s title referring to more than one divide – separations of faith, gender, equality, loyalties, memory and, most strikingly, class are all highlighted as issues facing the characters to the point where we witness the first realisations in the youngest members of each family about their own social standings.
Even more remarkable is how the film navigates around the conditions of censorship in which the film has been made – Farhadi’s fellow Iranian director Jafar Panahi was jailed for six years in 2010 with a further ban on filmmaking for 20 years after he fell foul of the state. Knowing any of this context is irrelavent to enjoying this accessible and engaging drama but equally offers an un-missable account of contemporary Iranian society.
In my opinion, it’s also one of the most tactful and accurate portraits on film of a family faced with the spiralling frustrations and painful loyalties of caring for a senile relative. A sensitive and intensely human drama well worth investigating.