Monday, October 8, 2012

A Separation -- An Iranian Movie

Iran | 2011 | 123 minutes | Director: Asghar Farhadi | Cast : Leila Hatami (Simin), Peyman Moaadi (Nader), Sarina Farhadi (Termeh), Sareh Bayat (Razieh), Shahab Hosseini (Hojjat)

It's a rare thing to see an Iranian movie being screened in a major theater chain in Indonesia. I usually watch Iranian movies during movie festivals and other cultural events. So when I saw A Separation was on the 21Cineplex, I made sure I'd watch it.

-- Best Foreign Language at the 84th Academy Awards in February this year
-- Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Golden Globe
-- The Golden Bear for Best Film and two Silver Bear for Best Actress and Best Actor at the Berlinale Film Festival

Nader and Simin have married for 14 years and live with their 11-year-old daughter Termeh in Teheran. They are about to leave the country with the hope to have a better life, but Nader's aging father is suffering from Alzheimer. So Nader decides to stay. Simin files for divorce, but the judge rejects it because their problems are not enough for a divorce.

Simin: Your father doesn't even know you anymore.
Nader: It doesn't matter. I know he is my father!
Me: (suddenly remembers D at home, but this is not relevant. Moving on...)

Leila Hatami looks like Nicole Kidman, doesn't she? Am starting to develop major crush on Peyman Moaadi's beard and thick brows, ahem:)

Although the divorce application is rejected, Simin leaves her husband and daughter and returns to her parents' home. On Simin's recommendation, Nader hires Razieh, a woman living on the suburb, to take care of his father. The woman soon finds that the job is physically and emotionally demanding, as she also need to clean the old man, who is incontinent. Razieh later calls a religious hotline to ask if it's OK for her to clean the old man. 

Clad in black chador, Razieh walks to Nader's house with her daughter Somayeh

Razieh : (on the phone) I work for a family and the old man is incontinent. Is it sinful for me to clean him? Nobody is here and the man has sit for half an hour.

I find the scene interesting, because we don't have that kind of hotline here.  

Razieh wants to resign from the job, but then asks Nader to consider her husband Hojjat to take her position. But then her husband is taken away by the creditors, so she continues working at Nader's house. 

One day, Nader and Termeh come home to an empty house and find the old man lying unconscious on the floor while one of his hands is tied to his bed. Nader also finds that an amount of money has disappeared (the money is actually used by Simin to pay movers in early scenes). When Razieh returns, Nader shoves her outside of the house.

And that is when the movie becomes serious. While Nader has to deal with murder charges and arduous trial process, Simin and Termeh are anxious for their own safety. There is an interesting scene on the sideline of trial process, when Termeh recites the history of Iran, specifically the Sassanid Era that started the formation of social class: the upper class and the lower class (please correct me if I'm wrong, the movie's English subtitle is not good and I don't understand Farsi). As Termeh says those words, her eyes catches Samoyeh's and they both fall silent. 

And then it dawned on me: wow, that's the movie's main idea! Nader, Simin and Termeh are a middle class family, while Hojjat, Razieh and Samoyeh are of lower class family. They have different perspectives and priorities. This is not only happening in Iran, of course. 

As the conflict is building up, the separation between Nader and Simin becomes real, forcing Termeh to decide on which parent she'd like to live with. The separation is no longer about physical distance, but also ideas. 

Termeh: I thought you said it (the separation) is not serious?
Nader: It got serious

Nader and Termeh

As most Iranian movies take the topics that are found in everyday's life, it feels easy to connect with the characters and understand their strengths and flaws. Their acting is so natural one can imagine having them as people living next door. Having watched this movie, I understand why A Separation made it to Oscar. It is that good.

Go and watch this movie before it expires!

All photos are found at Rotten Tomatoes

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