Parmis Sahrapima, Web Co-Editor-in-Chief
A Separation, a film directed by Asghar Farhadi, became vastly popular worldwide after its release in 2011. Widely recognized for its stimulating drama and honest portrayals of the inequality existing in Iranian society, A Separation won the Oscar for best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Annual Academy Awards held on Feb. 26.
A Separation became the first movie from Iran to win the Academy Award for Foreign Language Film, causing Iranians worldwide to celebrate. Farhadi, upon receiving the Oscar, expressed on behalf of his fellow Iranians, his wish that Iran could be noticed not for its political incentives, but for its opulent and rich culture.
“At this time many Iranians all over the world are watching us, and I imagine them to be very happy. They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or a filmmaker, but because at a time of tug of war, intimidation and aggressions exchanged between politicians — the name of their county, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment,” Farhadi said during his Academy Award speech.
A Separation begins with a couple, Simin and Nader, expressing their conflicts with one another in front of a judge. Simin desires to leave Iran with her daughter Termeh, while Nader wishes to stay in Tehran and care for his father who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. However, because Nader refuses to agree to a divorce or to legally allow his daughter to travel abroad, Simin leaves the house to live with her parents. Nader then hires a woman named Razieh to look after his father. It is here where the strict rules of Islamic religion reveal their prominent role in Iranian society when Razieh, through a series of phone calls, makes sure that it is religiously moral for her to change the father’s clothes without having committed a sin.
It is not before long that Nader comes back to court, carrying heated arguments with Razieh and her husband, Hodjat. This time Nader is accused of causing Razieh’s miscarriage after “pushing” her down his stairs when he had grown angry at her for not looking after his father effectively. The skirmish between the two families is further heated by tensions in social class. To Hodjat, who is unemployed and in debt, Nader and Simin are part of the elite. The family seems to him to be arrogant, nonreligious, and full of hatred for lower-class working men. Because of his view, Nader and Simin’s attempts to work something out makes Hodjat believe that the opposing family views him and his Razieh as pitiful and laughing stocks. This makes Hodjat all the more aggressive, and it is here where Farhadi accomplishes the task of portraying Hodjat as a brutal man.
Even though A Separation dramatically and yet honestly expresses the inequalities and restrictions that exist in Iranian society, it is the depressing portrayal of these issues that makes the movie pleasantly wonderful. It presents itself as an honest movie that expresses the difficulties of being honest, both with others and with oneself. The movie reveals that humans tend to keep away significant details and tend to change reality into something that provides them with the greatest benefit. It is not until Nader is found out by his daughter Termeh that he eventually admits that he had known of the caretaker’s pregnancy.
A Separation also plays its prominent role in depicting the challenges that women face in comparison to men and the restrictions and limitations they are forced to bear with when men are involved in the scene. The movie also depicts the greed for money. The caretaker’s husband wasn’t really concerned about his wife’s miscarriage, but about having the opportunity to receive money for it. Hodjat only had money on his mind, and used the miscarriage to exaggerate the great loss that it had been for them.
Even though religion has been turned into a dangerous weapon through the role of politics in Iran, A Separation significantly portrayed the positive roles that religion can also play in Iranian society. While Iranian society is governed by corrupt and fanatic Muslims, this movie portrays the limits that religion can place on sin. The swearing on the Quran that was constantly reinforced kept the actors from exceeding the lines of pretense, and helped to determine some solid truths through the trials.
Another significant point in A Separation is that because Termeh is Nader’s daughter, she is somewhat pressured into standing up for him and protecting him against his own guilt and crimes. Termeh then avenges his father for making her lie by not choosing to live with him in the end. Throughout the entire movie, Termeh’s intense feelings were evaded and placed to the side, but it is her emotions that pervade the film in the end, and bring the divorce of her parents to revolve around her. The great amount of emotion that exists in this last scene is truly inexplicable, and the inability of Simin and Nader to express any thoughts or opinions on Termeh’s final decision shows the throbbing emotions that they are putting to control inside themselves, thus ending the movie with a heartbreaking and gripping intensity.
With the many themes that A Separation presents, along with the emotions that it was able to stir inside viewers, Farhadi has truly amazed millions with his ingenious creation of an Iranian lifestyle and the cultural, religious and social workings behind it.