Saturday, January 21, 2012

"A Separation" (from Iran) presents divorce, eldercare, and "bribery" in a complex moral drama

The film “A Separation” (“Jodaeiye Nader az Simin”), from Iran (director Asghar Farhadi), certainly provides a roadmap for how we construct and resolve moral dilemmas. The story provides a good case for the “collective good” aim of moral principles common in most religious scriptures (whether the Koran, the Bible, the Book of Mormon), and yet at its conclusion makes personal honor an absolute.  That is to say, the “hero”, dutiful husband Nader (Peyman Moadi, who makes himself energetic and likeable), finally has to decide an issue on the basis of whether he really did anything wrong, rather than on what resolves the needs for two families.  All religions have to deal with these kinds of situations.  And so do all reputable legal systems.

Simini, Nader’s wife (Leila Hatami) wants to leave Iran to give a better life for her blossoming daughter Tehmeh (Tarina Farhadi).  Nader, however, cannot leave his father, deteriorating rapidly with Alzheimer’s disease, alone.  As the movie opens, they want a pragmatic, no-fault divorce which the religious cleric (under Shiite law) cannot allow.  She goes away briefly, while Nader tries to hire a caregiver, who, a female, at first wonders if she can even provide the physical care that the aging father needs.  After some mishaps, Nader tries to fire her, and as she leaves the apartment, she falls and soon miscarries.  There follows a complex battle in which Nader is accused of causing the death of the unborn child, but even that does not account for all of the moral complexity.

The film takes place mostly in door, with a lot of rapid, heated dialogue; the technical quality of the film isn’t quite up to contemporary standards, and the top and bottom were cropped slightly to fit into 1.85:1. 

The practical difficulties of caring for the father, who no longer recognizes his son, are well demonstrated.
The official site is here. It had played in the New York, Telluride, and Toronto film festivals and won the Golden Globe for best foreign language picture.

Update: Dec, 8, 2015

There is a 52-minute documentary on this film by Azadeh Moussavi and Kouroush Ataee.  Farhadi explains how he was inspired to make the film by an image of a man bathing his grandfather.  Later the documentary traces the awards circuit for the film and the difficulty it can cause Farhadi when he returns to Iran.  It also mentions that politics of the US trying to stop Iran from having nuclear weapons. The documentary was placed on a separate DVD, for the film "About Elly" (here, Dec. 4, 2015)/

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