Asghar Farhadi’s (About Elly,Dancing in the Dust) most recent film ‘A Separation’ already received awards and critical praise. Like his previous creation ‘About Elly'(2009), ‘A Separation’ is a powerful story, where a selfish decision creates a spiral of lies, misunderstandings and suffering.
It begins with a hearing,in which Nassar (Peyman Moaadi: About Elly) and Simin (Leila Hatami: Leila, The Deserted Station) announce a formal separation in their marriage. Simin is keen on leaving Iran, however, Nassar refuses,mostly because he wants to care for his sick father. Later we learn that their daughter Termel (Sarrina Farhadi, the director’s daughter) secretly knows that her mother isn’t telling the truth and that she would not leave her own child behind.
After parting with his wife, Nasser is required to hire someone to look after his father. Nasser’s sister recommends Razieh (Sareh Bayat), a poor and very religious woman. Soon after drama starts, Razieh barely copes with chores she’s been given. She struggles to care for the elderly man. She is put in the position of choosing strict Islamic rules of modesty over the basic human impulse to help someone in need. After a day of work Razieh asks Nasser to be replaced, but he doesn’t want her to leave. A few days later he finds his father lying on the floor with his hands tied up to bed, some money missing and no sign of Razieh. Eventually she returns, Nasser and Razieh argue over the money. Furious, the man sends her away without the payment. However, she comes back asking for her wages. Frustrated Nasser half pushes her half ushers her out of the door (it is unclear to us if he actually used any force to remove her from his home,I do believe the director done it deliberately unclear). Razieh comes back the next day with her husband Hodjat (Shahob Hosseini) accusing him of pushing her hard which resulted in her miscarriage. The question arises: did Nasser know she was pregnant? Did he really pushed her down the stairs? Perhaps her miscarriage was caused by something else.
From the director’s perspective there is no room for favoritism on any side of the conflict. Farhadi observes his characters from a distance. He doesn’t speak about them with a tone of an inspired moralist, he only shows successive layers of the truth and its impact on cultural facade, behind which the characters are hidden. The layers fall quietly exposing the readiness to lie which defy Farhadi’s humanity.
Farhadi’s plot and dialogue demand that the audience pay attention to every word and every action.
‘A Separation’ is full of powerful performances. It gave me,as a viewer, a different sense of what Iranian film can be, and how talented the Middle East artists are.
Reviewed by Maggie Gogler.