Monday, September 10, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—A Separation (2011) ****

PG-13, 123 min.
Director/Writer: Ashgar Farhadi
Starring: Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sarina Farhadi, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini, Kimia Hosseini

“A Separation” was this year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film. It is a unique film coming from Iran, one of the best producers of quality filmmaking in the world. Considering the restrictions the country has a reputation for having against humanitarian acts, this might seem like a surprise. I believe it can be explained by the fact that if you have to fight harder to be heard, what you have to say will be more poignant and profound.

“A Separation” tells the story of a couple who gets divorced so the wife may leave the country when the husband feels he no longer can. His father suffers from Alzheimer’s and the husband has changed his mind about leaving the country in order to care for his father. The wife doesn’t want to leave their daughter, but the husband still has rights to keep her and the daughter refuses to go in an effort to keep her parents together.

The divorce isn’t really what the movie is about, however. It is more about why we make the decisions we do as adults, and the moral consequences that come with each and every one of those decisions. The husband must hire a nurse to care for his father while he is away at work. The woman he hires is pregnant, but she never informs him of this, nor does she necessarily hide it. Her religious beliefs prohibit her from performing some of the duties required by the job. She offers to have her husband apply. He’s been in trouble with creditors and they need the money. The husband is placed in prison and she must return to the nursing duties or lose the needed employment.

There are a great many more details that go into the choices and deceptions each person places upon each other, but an accident leads to a miscarriage, which starts to bring the truths out. Yet each truth has its own truth to it and cannot stand alone in terms of how the blame is placed. Everyone has their own good reasons for doing what they do and hiding what they hide. Director/writer Ashgar Farhadi does an amazing job balancing the truths and the lies in such a way that we can see everyone’s point of view, everyone innocence, and everyone’s guilt.

He frames his story with the couple’s divorce proceeding, which like all the legal actions in the movie is vastly different than what we know in this country. It is at once more chaotic and simpler than our legal processes. The film ends with a choice that is unbearable to imagine. It is a choice that even we ask some of our citizens to make. The fact that we could ask this choice of anyone, especially of the people we usually ask it of, makes us all guilty.

No comments: