2/28/12: A Separation


This fine piece, the 84th Oscar Winner for Foreign Language Film, explores the decaying relationship of an Iranian couple w/ an early adolescent daughter, Termeh, struggling between two equally important strategic family decisions: Simin, the wife, wants to leave Iran to go abroad where they can provide a better life for Termeh; while Nader, once supportive of the idea, feels the timing is not right  because his father, who lives w/ them, has been showing rapid escalation in his battle w/ Alzheimer’s. Both are firm in their conviction, and the only solution, in Simin’s eyes, is divorce.

     

The opening scene takes place before an Iranian judge who must arbitrate or decide on the divorce. Nader is not willing to allow the divorce and the Iranian court system prevents such decrees w/o the agreement of the husband. The couple separates and Termeh stays w/ Nader. The main complication of the film, however, is that Simin is her father-in-law’s main caregiver. She hires a fulltime nurse/maid, Razieh, who is a friend of her cousin’s.

The film is quite marvelous, albeit slow at points, and I recommend it so highly that I cannot in good conscience go on w/ more details of the plot. But suffice it to say that there is more to Razieh than meets the eye and her performance in the job, both from the characters and audience’s perspective, does not live up to expectations. The ending was seemingly disappointing because it’s not resolved but, in retrospect, my hoped for resolution – regardless of the path it took – is irrelevant. Nothing changes either way. No matter what happens that isn’t shown, the lives, hope, dreams and future relationships of the characters are unaffected.

There are a number of themes about life in Iran that are explored and that were eye-opening to me as an American film aficionado. Amongst them: The respect granted by Iranian men for the wives of other Iranian men is greater than that afforded their own spouse; the priority of the Islamic faith to the very religious w/ respect to their daily lives and moral obligations; and the degree of modernization of the society. This film is a must see, preferably on the big screen but definitely as a rental when it comes out on DVD & Blu-ray. Though I saw it on 2/28, I plan to return on 3/6.

 

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