A Separation; politics, sex, class and religion in Iran

A Separation
Director: Asghar Farhadi
In cinemas for April 19

A Separation, this year's Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film has provided the Iranian authorities with a real dilemma.

On one hand, the film has won an Oscar, the first for an Iranian film, and it also beat off the Israeli film Footnote.

On the other, the depiction of life in Iran is apparently un-Islamic and the director Asghar Farhadi was nearly prevented from filming.

It is not an overtly political film but it shows individuals separated by differing aspirations in a society separated between two sets of values, the traditional and the liberal.

It is a bleak and depressing depiction of a society ruptured by the demands of religion and tradition and how they impact on the politics of sex and class.

The film centres around the divorce of a couple, Nadr and Simin. She wants to take their daughter overseas, where she will have more opportunities, while Nader wants to remain in the country to care for his ageing, Alzheimer father.

Nader hires Razieh, a religious woman from a poor suburb, to take care of his father when he goes to work.

Razieh soon finds the work physically challenging. It also puts religious demands on her.

When she realises she will have to bathe the old man she rings a religious hotline to find out whether it will be a sin or not.

She is also pregnant but does not tell Nadr, who in a fit of rage pushes her and she falls down some stairs, suffering a miscarriage

This leads to a court case which starts to spread into other areas which tests the relationships of the two couples and their versions of what occurred.

There are also questions around the way Razieh’s husband treats her and whether there will be blood money for the dead child.

Throughout the whole film there are moral issues raised by the actions of each of the characters. They are all flawed, nobody tells the full truth, withholding crucial knowledge and observations. 

Even the children, who in most films are the truth tellers, are not totally honest.

The key people are the women Simin, Razieh and Simin’s daughter Termeh.

Individually, they present three different types of women and approaches to living in contemporary society.

Collectively, they become a metaphor for the conflicting religious, political and social ideas of contemporary Iran.

The disconnection between the characters is highlighted by Farhadi’s technique of filming using mirrors and glass, shooting through windows and door frames, and distancing the characters from each other.

The film presents a view of Iran which is largely seen through the perspective of Iranian women. All the women wear head coverings, from the liberal Simin with her colourful shawls, to the full burqua of Razieh.

Tehran seems to have all the liberal and contemporary qualities of a Western city but Razieh and her husband introduce the religious element which undermines those perception.

Early on we discover that the divorce judge has not allowed the divorce between Nadr and Simin because the state does not agree.

While the title may refer to the separation the couple are going through, the film is also about the separations occurring in society between religion and liberalism, state and individuals, and class and aspirations.

These are not just issues for Iran, however, touching on universal tensions which all societies and individuals encounter.

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3 Comments & Questions

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Dude, Are you sure you've watched the same movie or read the subtitles? All of characters' names are incorrect. Yermeh must actually be Termeh, Nadr must be Nader.
"Razieh wears a full burqa"? Have you ever seen a burqa?

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Wasn't the same movie I saw whcih was tedious and pointless.

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