Released today on Blu-ray and DVD is the new multi-award-winning Iranian drama A Separation from critically acclaimed director Asghar Farhadi.
Simin (Leila Hatami) wants to leave Iran with her daughter so that she will have a chance and a better life but her husband Nader (Peyman Moaadi) refuses, unable to leave because he is the soul carer of his elderly father who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Simin files for divorce but unwilling to leave the country without her child she decides to go live with her parents leaving Nader to hire a carer to look after his father whilst he is at work. Pregnant Razieh (Sareh Bayat) unknowing to her husband takes the job but after an accident under her supervision things take a turn for the worse.
There’s a scene in this film when whilst in the care of Razieh, Nader’s father soils himself. Unable to change and wash on his own, she has to phone a religious helpline asking if it’s considered a sin to undress the man and help clean him. Such a small scene, even though not integral to the overall plot of the movie helps the story dig it’s feet in the ground of realism, the inner conflict of a devout Islamic woman who must choose between what is right in the eyes of her religion and what is right in the eyes of being human, that confusion for the few seconds it lasts is more compelling than most of the American imports this year.
I loved the rawness of the drama and how in many ways it’s underplayed, not going down the road that western films might. Farhadi lets the story unfold without the bangs and whistles of trying to make it visually stunning as he understands that if we are aware of the camera’s presence you lose the connection with what is going on screen. The documentary style and the way the story is played gives you the impression that you are more of a witness than an audience.
And it’s that quality where the film succeeds, as it leaves you to be the judge of who is at fault here. Not a single character is unlikeable and you understand the actions of each, it’s just that they are all flawed. Characters lie for personal gain and for safety, they feel real, the way the carry themselves and their actions, they are all just so very human and it’s a struggle to put into words how refreshing it is to see a film that appears to have real people and where the line between reality and character is blurred.
Not a story of vengeance but one of justice that gives the audience an honest look at some of the problems that can arise in Iranian society. The effect of religion as well as the difference in class being the two main issues brought up. It’s heart-breaking, touching, emotional, authentic and highly dramatic, A Separation is everything a great piece of storytelling should be and let me tell you, expect more nominations and wins for this in 2012 when the big awards start being handed out.
The film looks good but as I’ve said before it’s not very showy therefore although the 1080p transfer is decent and the picture clean and crisp it’ll never make you go wow, and it’s same for the Persian DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0. It’s good but never given a chance to be great and that’s fine because it’s in relation to material and it does exactly what it’s meant to, dialogue is understandable and the subtitles flow well.
On the subject of special features I’m happy to say the disc does have a few short interviews, two with the director, one about his career and his beginnings as a filmmaker and the second about the film itself. The other is an interview with actress Leila Hatami about her involvement in the project. Each clip is nice enough but as you can probably tell by their runtime, it’s doesn’t get into any depth and is pretty much surface stuff. But you’ve got to respect Artificial Eye for including any extras whatsoever because seeing as it’s a smaller foreign release they could have easily just fast-tracked it and released a bare bones version so the fact that they’ve actually went out of their way to include even the smallest thing is admirable.
Overall, A Separation is hands down one of the best films of 2011, complex and engaging it’s a real gem of a movie which deserves to be seen by all. Morally ambiguous as life is morally ambiguous, it’s sure to have you in discussion afterwards. Simply put, go see this film now!