Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Separation (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

A Separation

"A Separation" is the Academy Award winning film in this year's foreign film category. It tells a story of overwhelming stubbornness, betrayal secrecy, and religion under social pressures, raising the question of whether or not to do what is humanly moral or to remain petty in the face of Ego. The narrative is half "Kramer vs. Kramer" and half French tragedy in the tradition of "Jean de Florette" and its sequel "Manon of the Spring". Despite these influences however, "A Separation" is uniquely its own with traces of Franz Kafka's "The Trial" under its invasive cry of a muezzin's call to prayer.

An Iranian couple Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) want a divorce. Simin wants to move to find a better life for their daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). The husband refuses citing the responsibility of taking care of his bedridden father. The reality: the two parents can't stand each other. What follows is a battle of wills, how far can selfishness go? And what part does a fundamentalist religion play, if any, in serving, or reigning in our egotistical urges?

The court rules that there is no valid evidence for the divorce. Simin moves out. Nader hires a lady, Razieh (Sarieh Bayat) who is deeply conservative. Razieh quickly becomes overworked and loses track of the bedridden father who has Alzheimer's. She tries to rescue him and does, but Nader goes into a rage at finding his father tied to the bed with money missing. This sets off a chain reaction of moral catastrophes that are heart-squashing and electrically intense with an abundance of cultural voltage. Nader, who at first glance seems measured and delicate, becomes increasingly self absorbed and maniacal as the film progresses. There is no humility in him. Deep within his masculinity, Nader cannot admit he is wrong.

Although the two parents are an upper middle class couple, the guilt of Razieh's poverty casts a shadow over everything along with her talk of martyrs and the Qu'ran. Her religion is iron-clad pitted against Nader's self-assuredness. Both are self righteous. This is how family feuds are started and sometimes never finished without blood.

Nader and Simin are literally sequestered in a hall of doors without end. They spend lots of time opening and closing them. There are just as many problems as there are doors in the film. Numerous people ceaselessly rush about the house, either potential allies or witnesses against Nader. Even Razieh's little daughter shoots baleful looks at the family. In one scene, the girl plays with the invalid father's oxygen tank, as if playing with a fly. Children are not innocent here, only spontaneous.

This film has no heroes and there are no solutions. "A Separation" is a true arabesque of anxiety and horribly, it falls to Termeh to give the last word.

Write Ian at

No comments: