A Separation (2011)

“What is wrong is wrong, no matter who said it or where it’s written.”

‘A Separation’, directed by Asghar Farhadi in 2011, tells the story of an affluent couple in Tehran who petition the courts for a divorce. The desire of the wife to be apart from her husband, and the complications caused by the husband’s father who suffers from Alzheimer’s, creates a chain of events that leads to accusations of murder and assault and to an insight into the (for European eyes at least) alien world of the Iranian legal system. The film parallels the central characters with a poorer couple, who work for them. This allows the director to fully unpack and reveal the advantages gained by money and gender in this society, and also to focus on the effect of religious beliefs and strict religious protocols on the actions of the characters. It’s a rich movie that seems to seek to encapsulate an entire set of national preoccupations and anxieties within the microscopic depiction of a family: from the stubborn husband to the frustrated wife, from the devout and victimised employee to her angry and embittered spouse. It’s filmed in a realist style, which perfectly suits the complex emotional development of the characters and the intricate examination of the world around them: by filming naturally and on real streets, with subdued performances, no incidental music and no visual gimmicks, your focus is on the fable like situations within which the characters find themselves. For me, the highlights of the film (if that’s the correct term) are the scenes in which the ailing father is shown handed from person to person as the relationship between the central couple fails. His illness and his blank confusion at the events going on around him is the perfect metaphor for the gradual erosion of the love between the couple, and, by the end of the film, it seems that, like him, they have forgotten who they are as well. It’s a deeply moving and thoughtful film that briefly lifts a curtain and reveals some of the truth in a country so often, and unfairly, seen as remote and hostile.

Would I recommend it? Yes, but it’s tricky to see it as a double bill. In terms of the breakdown of a relationship, perhaps one of Bergman’s movies, or in terms of the realist direction a film such as ‘Rome, Open City’ might be interesting.

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