The stand out film of the 2011 Berlin Film Festival and winner of the Golden Bear, A Separation is a suspenseful and intelligent drama detailing the fractures and tensions at the heart of Iranian society. Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, the film boasts a range of superb performances from the ensemble cast who collectively received the Silver Bears for both Best Actor and Best Actress at the Berlinale. The compelling narrative is driven by a taut and finely written script rooted in the particular of Iranian society but which transcends its setting to create a stunning morality play with universal resonance. When his wife (Leila Hatami) leaves him, Nader (Peyman Moadi) hires a young woman (Sareh Bayat) to take care of his suffering father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi). But he doesn t know his new maid is not only pregnant, but also working without her unstable husband s (Shahab Hosseini) permission. Soon, Nader finds himself entangled in a web of lies manipulation and public confrontations. A SEPARATION is the first ever Iranian film to be awarded the Golden Bear.
Asgar Farhadi’s A Separation--a courtroom drama in three acts and Iran’s official entry for Best Foreign Film at the 2012 Oscars--paints an admirably candid picture of dysfunctional life under the Islamic republic. The separation of the film’s title is in the opening divorce hearing--Simin wants to leave Iran with her daughter Termeh; her husband Nadar cannot desert his senile father--but could as easily refer to the divisions of education, gender and social advantage that shape what follows. After Simin moves out, Nadar hires Razeih--a pious woman with a sweet daughter and a hot-headed husband--to care for his unmanageable father. But when a standoff results in disaster for Razeih, both families must assert their honour in Tehran’s congested justice system. There’s nothing quite like a courtroom for dragging up class bitterness--and while Iran’s theocratic regime isn’t on trial in A Separation, its effects are felt in the contest of values at the film’s heart. Secular and middle-class, Nadar and Simin’s sense of Persian superiority belittles Razeih and enrages her husband, both of whom belong to the struggling majority of Iranians who accept the Islamic republic. A careworn judge must draw a line in the blur of distorted facts before him--but state justice wont address the deeper codes of pride and identity at stake. If our sympathies continually shift sides, we’re always behind the observant and fearless young Termeh, the only character whose moral code is flexible enough to survive A Separation intact. The film’s final act--her custody hearing--is Termeh’s alone to decide. --Leo Batchelor