A Separation, one of my top 10 films, deals with more issues than you can think of:
family relationship across three generations, social class separation, religion, politics, human frailty, selfishness and forgiving, tolerance and intolerance, rigid stubbornness and insecurity….the list goes on – through efficiently constructed scenes and clear, effective dialogue. The performance of the cast is uniformly excellent.
This film presents authentic characters with all of their human weaknesses suddenly thrown into dire situations that totally engage the movie-going audience in such a honest and straight forward way. In Asghar Farhadi’s gripping Iranian import, the law sets up deliberate legal and moral repercussion in its separate but unequal treatment of a family caught in an unjust and emotional dilemma.
These are flawed people faced with life and death decisions. The choices made by them have far-reaching cultural, political, and religious ramifications. Director Farhadi agilely sets up the plot and then purposely structures his film so that the viewer never really knows the exact circumstances that leads to the compounding of the issue at hand.
His intricate screenplay has a Rashomon influence, as he edits the film to only show fragments of the case from differing points of view. This tends to complicate the viewer’s own point of view as certain facts are left obscure and deliberately left to skew the outcome.
Throughout our world, we rely on the court system to handle the legal and monetary matters and are left to personally handle the emotional toll as we access the damage we inflict on each other. Laws are made to protect its citizens from harm or injustice. And yet, sometimes these statutes have an opposite polarising effect on its people.
There was a time, in our own country, when women could not vote, alcohol was illegal, and education was deemed separate but equal. Any country must amend the laws and change its archaic rules if its society is to prosper. In this multi-layered drama, the Iranian court system is taken to task in a film so innovative and neo-realistic in its direct approach to a common problem experienced by many families.
A Separation is a thought-provoking and hard-hitting film, impeccably acted by its cast, especially Maadi as the proud and stubborn patriarch. Special kudos to Hatami and Bayet as the women caught up in this male dominated culture, trying to make sense of their purpose while protecting the children they love.
The child actors also bring a wonderful naturalness to their roles. Farhadi’s literate script examines their plight and ponders the ethical and religious connotations that weigh on its characters as they deal with truths and half-truths that, in turn, destroy each of their lives. Sometimes, the truth doesn’t always set you free.
The skill displayed in terms of film-making is never less than brilliant. In the choice of camera positioning, which uses foreground obstructions to spy on the action from a distance, the viewer is always implicated emotionally in the realistic twists and turns of the story which constantly arise from the characters. The acting is faultless and brimming with truth and emotion.