Friday, December 09, 2011

Review: Nader and Simin, A separation

I watched the movie A Separation in a friend's house last night. This was a movie that I had heard about and planning to watch but when it comes to popular films, I let the dust settle so I can have clear view, without any prejudgement. I must confess it is one of the better films I have seen lately.

A Separation is a tense and gripping movie. Takes you through a rollercoaster of emotions and in the end, it lands you safely but shaken while letting you digest the intense drama. It sucks you in: you cannot be a bystander watching this, either you are full in or full out. For a family film, as it were, this is a surprisingly intense experience with a suspense, drama and complex story-line that is not a hallmark of such genre.

Apart from a stunning performances from every single actor, transparent and true cinematography (which as far as I can remember not quite the style Kelari is known for) and precise editing, this is a layered movie: the one on the surface is the story of the characters and the one deeper, which is the story of chasm and confusion of today's Iran society. It cuts deep to the bone, where the separation is that of social fabrics.

After finishing watching it, I could understand why this became so popular in France. It immediately reminds of Dardenne Brothers films where realism meets intense and personal drama: no long shots, camera is so close to the characters that you can almost smell them.

[SPOILER ALERT: There will be references to the ending and events within the film from here on]

After the first scene, we get to think that perhaps separation was just a fluke, a spin-off so that the real story can begin. Nader does not make any efforts to stop Simin. He seems to be merely interested in his father and daghter. Not only he does not show any affection towards her, but also he does not even make an eye contact - cannot remember even one scene that he makes an eye contact. After watching the movie till the end, I feel that Nader avoids Simin as he knows that Simin's love will destroy him, as he would be torn apart between her and his father -  a choice that he would not be able to make. Simin is completely shaken by the separation but she sees no option other than choosing a future that will spare his daughter from the increasingly unbearable conditions of the society.

On the other hand, Razieh is torn between the interest of her family versus her religious beliefs. He calls Fatwa line's and asks for religious guidance for difficult choices she has to make. Hojjat has been stung once by the society and he is after his right. He is in a desperate and hopeless situation where his religious believes can cost him repayment of his debts. He is torn between playing the victim and perpetrator. And Termeh is torn between choosing her father or her mum.

This is pretty much how every Iranian feels. They are torn inside having to make difficult choices while the fabrics of the society are being torn outside by the shearing power of conflicting and even paradoxic powers. Nader is representative of the part of the middle class who sticks to his father (the traditions) while his father does not even recognise him - and he acknowledges it. Simin is the part of the middle class who had enough and wants a modern contemporary life (and since she cannot have it in Iran she has to emigrate). And for the working class (Razieh and Hojjat), there is no hope. It is interesting that the upper class has no representative here, it completely lives in its own world with no connecting to the realities of the street.

Now here, it is for the new generation (Termeh) to decide which one to choose: as Kiosk very well puts it, modernity or tradition [I strongly recommend watching this video, illustrates the paradox very well]. Separation is final, it is past the point of no return and Iran's new generation has to choose - which one? I think Farhadi has left the history to tell us the rest of the story.

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