Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lies May Lead to Truth.

Film: A Separation
Year: 2011
Written and directed by: Asghar Farhadi
Starring: Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Shabab Hosseini, Sarina Farhadi, Merila Zare'i, Kimia Hosseini, Shirin Yazdanbakhsh.
Running time: 123 min.

I've always been a big advocate of words being more effective than violence, thrills or laughs on screen. Some Hollywood films abuse that fact, by either using the violence and other visual things to get their point across, or by wasting words on needless exposition. But A Separation, an Iranian film written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, seamlessly uses words in all of their glory. It is a seemingly simple story about a married couple (Simin and Nader, played by Leila Hatami and Peyman Hatami respectively) who decide to divorce; Simin wants to leave Iran to let her daughter live a better life elsewhere, but Nader wants to stay in Iran and look after his ailing father who has Alzheimer’s. The story, without the use of guns, bombs or killing, captivates from the very beginning, and becomes a thriller where words speak louder than actions. And that is the way it should be.



Asghar Farhadi uses words like the knives or guns that you’d expect to see from a typical thriller, using them to create a tense, taut film that you perhaps wouldn’t expect from such a simple storyline. From the very beginning, he draws you into the world of Simin, Nader, and their child Termeh (Sarina Farhadi), usually confined to their dusty apartment. It is the kind of apartment that has been lived in, the kind of confines that become familiar straight away, the place in which you call home for the two hour duration. The characters that fill it, whether it be the family or their maid Razieh (Sareh Bayat) and her daughter Somayeh (Kimia Hosseini), are so well-written that they become people that you feel like you’ve had in your life for much longer. What Farhadi does is create atmosphere: first with his script, and then with his mostly handheld camera which documents their lives. You go in and out of the apartment, driving around town with them, go to the hospital with them - never for a second does it feel like slaving your way through an extremely observational film. You feel a part of their lives, not just an outsider looking in, which is the scariest part about this film.


But that Farhadi does the best is challenge your perceptions. I won't go into major specifics about the plot (because that would ruin the experience of the film), but there are a couple of important scenes which are quite challenging. You think you know what happened, and go along for the rest of the film thinking that you have resolved the entire issue, but then the movie has a way of twisting it. It is only then that you realise that you didn't have enough facts to begin with, and if you were to argue your case, you probably wouldn't have a lot of evidence to back it up. This isn't because you're stupid or ignorant - it is because when we watch films, we're so used to having everything handed to us on a silver platter that we generally make our own summations of how the story goes because we know what will happen. And usually, it does happen the way we've planned. In A Separation, you won't find that is the case. You'll be lucky to find any silver platters in this film.


Being a film made in Iran about Iranian people for Iranian people, you'd expect that it perhaps wouldn't translate so well to a wider audience. For example, religion plays a huge role in the film, which was a very different experience for me to watch. The film isn't aiming to teach you anything about the Iranian way of life - it just comes with becoming involved with these people and the problems that they face. But there is something that resonates with everyone, in one way or another, as it is a realistic look at actual humanity, and not the kind that Hollywood conjures up. The performances give it that final touch, playing up the story as real life. For me, there wasn't really a stand-out because they were all so good. The best examples of the terrific acting come from both the opening scene and closing scene, which bookend the film as a story which is kind of its own. The final scene, particularly, was the one that resonated with me the most, as I've been in that situation before (to a lesser extent though). It is such a perfect way to end, to leave the audience in that way, but it could haven't been any better.

It is stirring to think about everything that happened in this movie and how everything could possibly fit together. But what is more stirring to think about is just how great this film is.

What I got (kind of ironic rating):

12 comments:

  1. Fantastic review for a fantastic film. So glad you liked it. It's definitely one of my three favourites of 2011.

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    1. I must reorder my list to see where it fits in!

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  2. Brilliant write up Stevee.

    I am so please you enjoyed this one. It was a highlight for me last year. UK is soo different to Iran in so many ways and yet so similar.

    Thanks

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    1. That's what I felt with the similarities and differences between NZ and Iran. It was interesting to see - and definitely a culture shock!

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  3. Very good review Stevee! I am glad you enjoyed it so much, it really is a wonderful film and the script is one of the best I have seen!

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    1. The script is one of the best I have seen too!

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  4. Marvelous as usual Stevee. The final scene alone was just devastating to watch.

    I'm amazed at the whole film itself as I really feel like the Oscars actually got it right for once. I also enjoyed the fact that the characters in the film are portrayed with such care and nuance that even though they're flawed. There is something to relate to in these individuals.

    I'm now eager to see what else Asghar Farhadi has done as well what he might do next.

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    1. Thanks!

      The Oscars did get it right here. It should have won the screenplay award, but then again, Midnight in Paris was very good also.

      I would like to see more from Farhadi, too.

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  5. Love what you said about Farhadi challenging perceptions - it's absolutely true. You think you know something - something so obvious, that everyone has been taking it for granted, then BOOM - it's turned on it's head. It's so wonderful to see such complete, realistic characters. It doesn't even feel like acting. I adored this film!
    Wonderful write up as always!

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    1. That's exactly right! I forgot I was watching a film most of the time!
      Thanks!

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  6. Great review and you are completely right that we get to feel like we are right there living with these folks and that we know them, right up until the points where there is a surprise and we realize that we don't know them nearly as well as we thought we did, and then we are taken to a whole new level. Great job!

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    1. That's what I love most about this movie. Thanks!

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You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

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