A SeparationPosted by cinefile
A Separation (2011), directed by Asghar Farhadi
Although we’ve been hearing about it for a long time now, the Iranian film A Separation finally came out on home video yesterday and it’s about time.
We heard the most about it when it won last year’s Oscar for best foreign language film of the year, beating Canada’s Monsieur Lazhar (which is also coming out on home video soon…again, about time).
I always think the foreign language category is a shame because unless your from the country of the nominated film (and even if you are) the chances of you getting to see the movie before the awards are exceptionally low. Most of them play the film festival circuit and are then eligible for nomination. Not that I think a full release should be a requirement, but I do always find it frustrating that most of us don’t get to see these movies for months after they win.
But that’s besides the point.
For A Separation it has been worth the wait.
This is perhaps one of the most riveting films I have seen in a long time, yet its subject matter is so ordinary, so down-to-earth. It reinforces my belief that the most human of stories are often the most compelling to watch.
The subject matter seems simple. It’s about divorce, family, religion, money. It takes a moment, an incident that takes place in a split second, and builds a narrative around it rich with characters, accusations, lies, mistakes and emotion.
This, in turn, gives us insight into life in Iran, into the drives and depths of these complex characters and, as cliched as it sounds, into human nature.
Its greatest strength is that is does so by showing, never telling. There are no lofty speeches, no great lesson to it all. Just the complicated lives of these characters before us spinning into chaos and crashing into one another.
Using mostly handheld camerawork the film sneaks into the lives of these characters and through its fly-on-the-wall approach we merely see these characters interact, argue, fight, cry and console. It’s an approach that works because it never feels forced, never seems manipulative and yet comes out layered and heavy with meaning.
It works especially well because as a movie it is edited together and plays out as a tense police procedural, or a gritty courtroom drama. As a viewer we don’t exactly know the truth, though we suspect we do, and we want to know. I found myself getting worked up by how certain characters are acting, by lies being told or the injustice of an action.
Having had some experience covering real life police and courtroom dramas, I can tell you the film captures the feelings of frustration and helplessness these situations can bring about.
In any case, by having this approach, which reminded me of the stark reality of Mike Leigh mixed with the intrigue of a Hitchcock, the film is not only profound, but extremely watchable. I’ll take a hint from the movie and leave it at that, before this becomes unreadable.
A Separation made many of the best films of the year lists from last year and now that I’ve seen it I understand why.
A Separation is available on home video now.