Distributed by Filmiran;
Released: February 2011
When you see a film (or read a novel, for that matter) that’s set in a time or place wholly unfamiliar (i.e., foreign) to you, yet you empathize with the characters and understand what they are going through, that is truly great storytelling. Such is the case with this gem set in modern day Iran, A Separation. I have no idea what it must be like for someone to live in the Middle East, particularly in a place that has been led by crazy Ayatollahs and deranged haters of the West for decades. This film doesn’t really serve us up a day-in-the-life of an Iranian; rather, it shows us however different their lives may be from ours, they still share the human experience with us.
|Not THAT Nader!|
Nader, played with simmering agitation by a remarkable actor named Peyman Moaadi, is in a difficult position: His wife Simin does not want to raise their 11-year old daughter, Termeh, in Iran because it’s, well . . . Iran. She wants to move out of there. Nader, though, has an aging father with Alzheimer’s who he feels he cannot abandon. When Nader tells her he will not leave Iran, she moves back with her parents.
Now, Nader has a job to go to but now has lost his live-in dad-sitter. Nader hires a very religious and very unqualified woman named Raziah to watch the Old Man. She means well, but one day she isn’t paying attention and next thing you know, Pops is out wandering in traffic. The next day, to solve that problem, she ties him to the bed while she steps out for a bite to eat. Problem solved?
Nader then comes home with his daughter early from work and finds his dad passed out on the floor, poop in his pants, tied to the bed. Nader loses it, and his reaction drives the rest of the story. Nader is really a good guy, but a bit of a hot head. His next actions will affect his relationship with his daughter and his wife, and possibly his life. Anyone can understand how he feels, and really, anyone can empathize at least a little bit, with every character in the story. How this plays out is suspenseful, uncomfortable, and completely understandable.
The Iran of this film is drab and joyless (a BFF theme?), and I don’t remember any of the characters smiling at any point. But I couldn’t help but be drawn in, and I found myself hoping for the best for all concerned, even Raziah, the Babysitter from Hell. The acting is terrific and Director Asghar Farhadi paces the film perfectly--I really can't wait to check out more of his work. A Separation, for a Westerner like me, did the opposite of its title in regard to understanding a people so different and so far away. Deep down, maybe the regular folks in Iran are just like us.
|Father/Daughter, Papa Don't Preach: Are we that different?|
The Title: جدایی نادر از سیمین (man, was it hard to find the characters for this one on Word). A marriage that would possibly otherwise be successful is strained by forces beyond the characters’ control, both political and personal. Who else or what else will Nader be separated from?
The Culture: The film depicts differences in Iranian society—the educated couple, the religiously conservative Raziah, and the ethical and personal challenges their society gives them.
Agenda Danger: There is a tacit understanding that getting the heck out of Iran would probably be a good idea for someone with a brain. Politics are pretty much left alone, though.
Best Picture that year: The Artist