A Separation: Best movies of 2011, pick 9
With his latest feature, A Separation, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi joins the pantheon of great directors reserved for the likes of Bresson and Kurosawa. Told in a dramatic unfolding narrative, this World Cinema classic makes Pinstripe Magazine‘s best movies of 2011, pick 9.
Introduced as a Kramer versus Kramer styled drama, the story centers around the imminent divorce between Nader and his red-haired wife, Simin who wants to leave Iran. However, in line with Iranian law, Nader refuses to grant this and the judge dismisses the case on grounds of their daughter.
Unwilling to abandon caring for his Alzheimer stricken father, Nader hires outside help leading to a domestic incident in which the servant allegedly miscarries. This brings possible manslaughter charges and as Nader fights to clear his name, other parties get involved in a moralistic tale, which grips us from start to finish.
From a filmic point of view, A Separation could so easily be categorized as a realist kitchen-sink drama. Its real genius is that its narrative is an atmospheric lesson in how to structure dramatic conflict and reveal tension. The moral coin is flipped so often, it exhausts the viewer into a Rasohmon style of trickery. Just as we are pulled and align ourselves with a certain character, new information sheds light, which yanks our loyalties back to play devils advocate and champion the antagonist. It is with such conviction the characters perform, we neglect to make a conclusion until the end, which itself twists our POV once again. An emotional roller coaster and a meditation on ethics, the movie questions our own beliefs regarding family values.
Culturally, the film cleverly collates two sections of Iranian society. Whilst Nader and Simin belong to the intelligentsia of modern Tehran and are progressive in their outlook, Razieh and her husband, Hodjat are reactionary with a profound belief in an interfering God. Such is her conviction, she is unable to her confirm her accusations when Nader agrees to pay her compensation. Fearing being stricken down, Hodjat agrees to take the burden of the sin, which would alleviate his financial debt.
Interestingly, this is not an exploration of the Islamic religion. Just as racism is a prop in Spike Lee movies, A Separation is more a debate about families and their functions. When Simin suggests that Nader’s father doesn’t even know him any more, he replies, “yes, but I do.” It is this ping-pong conflict style that constantly challenges our own beliefs.
An intelligent, moving and compassionate tale, A Separation is a very likely contender for this year’s Oscar awards and makes Pinstripe’s list of best movies of 2011.
Check out another must see movie review, Kill List: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Best movies of 2011, pick 8