Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Lies May Lead to Truth.
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):