I’ve never seen an Iranian move but the country has a rich movie culture that has broken through with A Separation which won the Golden Bear, best actor and best actress awards at Berlin earlier this year. And I can understand why.
Don’t go expecting lavish cinematography, this is shot on hand held cameras, or certainly on fairly shaky tripods throughout, often under the harsh glare of fluorescent lighting that throws a watery blue cast over the action at times. But that is highly appropriate because this movie has a creeping sense of voyeurism throughout as the intensely private happenings of a family, and perhaps country, in turmoil steadily build up into a furious climax.
The plot is complex to say the least, but one can keep up by fully concentrating on each twist and turn of this micro-thriller.
The oppression of the Koran in this staunchly Muslim country carries a heavy burden throughout the film and it’s the most frequently used prop as one of the characters in particular, the victim of a central crime, seeks spiritual guidance throughout. It’s importance and oppression is palpable.
The story concerns the vain attempts of a wife (superbly acted by Leila Hatami) to leave Tehran with her husband to improve the life of their 12 year old daughter. But the husband cannot force himself to leave his Alzheimer’s afflicted father behind and so stalemate ensues and divorce becomes the only alternative, this results in a separation and so the father (played to perfection by Peyman Moaadi) is forced to hire a nurse to look after his desperately sad father during the day.
One thing leads to another and inadvertently the husband pushes the nurse so that she ends up aborting her child.
This sets off a horrendous chain of events that I will not reveal here for fear of spoiling it for you.
Suffice to say the tension mounts throughout the movie and culminates in a heartbreaking decision for the couple’s 12 year old daughter that is resolved in a way that Michael Hanneke would applaud vigorously.
This movie deals with important themes of family loyalty (more than love), duty, the oppression and folly of religion and pride.
Without overbearing pride much of the consequences of this film would not happen. Time and again you silently shout at the screen “just do the right thing and this mess will be resolved.” They never do.
It could almost be played for laughs so farcical are the the situations the main protagonists find themselves in. But this is no comedy, far from it. It’s a tearjerker and feels bitterly real, believable and often futile.
It’s as good as its billing. See it.