April issue 2012

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 12 years ago

The Oscar-winning Iranian film A Separation is as much about relationships as it is about truth. The film begins with the central couple, Simin and Nader, staring directly into the camera lens, arguing about the future of their marriage. The audience is placed in the position of the judge, listening to Simin explain that she wants a divorce so she can leave Tehran and take her daughter abroad to ensure a better future for them both. We then listen to Nader, who resists moving to another country since he cannot abandon his old and infirm father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Both make compelling arguments.

Eventually, Simin moves out and Nader hires a maid, Razieh, to help look after his father and his daughter, who decides to stay back with him. However, Nader soon fires Razieh because of her negligence and in the midst of a heated argument she falls and has a miscarriage. Simin and Nader subsequently face a lawsuit that threatens to break their family apart.

The premise of the film is fairly simple but there is deep complexity in the depiction of the characters, especially the couple’s young daughter, Termeh, who particularly bears the consequences of her parents’ separation. Razieh’s four-year-old daughter, Somayeh, also suffers as she witnesses her mother being humiliated and thrown out of Nader’s house, as well as her father’s violent outbursts. In a telling scene towards the end of the film, Termeh and Somayeh, once friends, stare at each other from opposite ends of a room, both tacitly accusing each other of breaking their respective families apart.

The audience is closely aligned with the role of the judge, and as the film progresses it becomes increasingly difficult to assign blame. Testimonies become complicated and secret negotiations take place. Asghar Farhadi, who directed, produced and wrote the film, has created a nuanced, complex film in which truth, morality and family obligations are all brought into question.

This movie review was originally published in the April issue of Newsline.

Zehra Nabi is a graduate student in The Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at Newsline and The Express Tribune.