I take my IMDb user account quite seriously. I have a habit of rating the movie on IMDb right after watching it. I also make lot of lists there, update them regularly and follow IMDb's lists as well. One such list is my watch-list for the IMDb Top 250 movies which is a list of movies I haven't seen from Top 250. For the longest time, Rear Window(1950) was my highest rated movie on that list, after that was Dr. Strangelove(1965) and now it is City Lights(1931). One fine day, about 6-7 months ago when I had not seen Rear Window yet, I realized that it wasn't first movie in my list anymore. Completely out of nowhere, a movie I had never heard of then took its place at the top of my list. That movie was A Separation(2011). This probably was the first time I heard of it and kept hearing about it since then as it collected awards after awards, praise after praise. That was until last week when I finally saw it and became one of them to be bowled over by the brilliance of this film.
This probably will not be like a normal reviews since I usually tend to discuss plot details in most of my reviews. But I have seen many reviews for A Separation after watching it and I agree with most of them when they say that it is impossible to discuss plot without giving any important spoilers away. For anyone who hasn't seen it yet, it will be criminal and if you have seen it, well, you anyway know everything. It might also make it a little shorter, but I can leave with it. All I will say is it is a story of a young couple going through difficult times in their marriage. Let me just introduce you to the characters - concerned couple is Simin and Nader. They have a 11 year old daughter Termeh. They also have Nader's old father leaving with them who has Alzheimer's and there is Razieh, a woman Nader has hired to look after his father. It takes hold of you from very first scene which probably is one of the best scenes you will ever see - a quick exchange of dialogues setting up the tone for next two hours as well as put us into perspective of what are we in for. There is no background music, there are no cuts. It relies on the acting skills of its two leads and their dialogue delivery and Boy, do they deliver! And so does the end. They could easily have cut it a minute earlier as Simin and Nader both come out of room but it lingers for a minute, giving you a full grasp of what Nader and Simin and going through, building the tension as if you are waiting for the decision as much as they are and then credit start to roll. I don't know about everyone but I was staring at the screen till the credits ended hoping maybe something will happen.
There are a lot of very subtle twists and turns in the plot which will make you question your loyalty to any side if at all you have already chosen a side. But as we go further in the movie we realize that there is no right side of it even though we can empathize with them. Everyone is doing what they are doing for one simple reason - to save their own skin. Asghar Farhadi, who directed as well as wrote this shows a great control by steering it in great direction at every turn. He not only made it interesting to watch on screen but harrowingly realistic in its cinematography and utterly thought-provoking. I saw it sometime last week and it had such a profound effect on me that I had to take some time to gather my thoughts enough to put this review together(So, excuse me, if it is not Coherent enough !!). His cast also deserves an equal credit since there is not a single character, small or big, which looses it's bearing at any point. Two leads Peyman Moadi and Leila Hatami along with Sareh Bayat as Raziah carry this film on their able shoulders. But, one I would really like to mention here is Sarina Farhadi who plays the role of daughter Termeh who if you haven't realized is daughter of the director Asghar Farhadi. Whole movie revolves around her and she does a great job of carrying that burden with maturity that is beyond her age.
It is not the first Iranian movie I saw. I have seen few before as Majid Majidi is one of the directors I have seen quite a bit of and I have immense respect for. But, I have a kind of Interesting pattern of watching Foreign Films e.g. I have seen at least a dozen Swedish films but they are either Bergman or few recent one's like The Girl with Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Similarly, all the Japanese movies are either Ghibli or Kurosawa. I know I am looking at the vast picture through a very small window and that does not make me a connoisseur but one thing that I have noted in all the Iranian movie I have seen is characters in these films are always very Iranian and at the same time they manage to be very Universal. Any character in these films can very well be the person sitting next to you, wherever in the world you might be. Main reason Farhadi's script or A Separation in general works for me is this universal appeal but by keeping them as close to their own soil, to their own culture. It uses no background music, it is completely shot with the handheld camera which gives it much more personal touch like you are watching these characters in person. Script is very well written to help us understand the characters, understand their lives, their perspective. I loved the small touches like Simin never lashes out on Nader's father even though he is the reason behind all her problems, she is always polite, always respectful. Touches like this make it impossible to hate any character even though you might think they are otherwise wrong - it makes them Human and for that alone, it deserves its Oscar and every other award it has got.
I refuse to look at it as the failure of Iranian Judicial System because I do not think that the questions this film asks us have any simple solution to it and that any judicial system would have helped it. And also without bringing politics in, because it has uncanny ability to make purest water murkier, I can only hope that this Oscar and all the attention it brings along, will help bring the Iranian Film Industry to a little normal state.
Rating(out of 5):