Call for Music Writers... Rock, Indie, Hip-hop, R&B, Electronic, Americana, Metal, World and More

cover art

A Separation

Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Peiman Ma’adi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Sarina Farhadi, Ali-Asghar Shahbazi

The Sydney Film Festival has wrapped for another year, and as the Arab Spring unfolds across the Middle-East, films from that region held the attention of the competition’s jury. Headed by Chinese director Chen Kaige, the Sydney Film Festival prize was awarded to the powerhouse Iranian drama A Separation, directed by Asghar Farhadi. This follows in the footsteps of the Berlin Film Festival, at which the film was also awarded the Golden Bear. Special mention went to Mohamed Diab’s Cairo 678, an Egyptian film which tackles similar themes to A Separation. The Tree of Life, which screened in competition and took the Palme d’Or at Cannes, was passed up altogether.

I am totally enthralled by the win of A Separation. It is a formally accomplished, highly illustrative musing on contemporary Iranian life. When a husband and wife controversially want to divorce, the husband (Peiman Ma’adi) hires a maid, played by Sareh Bayat, to look after his elderly father, who has Alzheimer’s. To reveal more would be to give too much away, but they all end up in a court case in which all their lives are at stake.

Farhadi demonstrates a control and sophistication over his film, which he has written, directed and produced. Over its 123 minutes, the way it unfolds is breath-taking, like a gathering storm; you leave the cinema feeling as if you have experienced their plight with them, and understand the society in which they live. Integral to its success are the interactions between its characters, and the complex emotions that govern their relationships. It is a film driven simply by dialogue and story, without anything added; a reminder of what the power of really great film can do.

Two of its themes are the emphasis on religion in Iran and female voicelessness – Bayat’s devout character is continually adjusting her hijab to cover her face, as if ashamed. A crucial point in the story revolves around the eleven-year old daughter of the divorcing couple, played by Farhadi’s own daughter Sarina, in a very moving performance. Much of A Separation is seen through her eyes, as she is sidelined and somewhat manipulated by her parents. Eventually it all comes down to her, and the film’s surprise ending is perfect.

According to IMDB, A Separation is to be released in the UK in July. Let’s hope that, with the Golden Bear’s prestige and the Sydney Film Festival cash prize, the film will find a major distributor for wider release. This is an incendiary film that refuses to let you go, a bright light in 2011 cinema.


Related Articles
13 Jan 2014
Céline, in a coma, is between states, and as such, she is a vivid if inert embodiment of the dilemma facing everyone in The Past.
By PopMatters Staff
5 Jan 2014
After a shaky start, 2013 ended up a stellar cinematic year, covering subjects as varied as young love, '70s (and '80s and '90s) con men, our country's horrific history of slavery, and perhaps most importantly, giant robots battling equally elephantine alien monster.
17 Dec 2013
Asghar Farhadi returns to the humanism of A Separation but infuses it with graceful notes of pure melodrama that throw his characters into emotional whirlwinds
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks

© 1999-2015 All rights reserved.™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.