Scott Dec. It is a rigorously honest movie about the difficulties of being honest, a film that tries to be truthful about the slipperiness of truth. It also sketches a portrait — perhaps an unnervingly familiar picture for American audiences — of a society divided by sex, generation, religion and class. The partial split between Nader and Simin is only one of the schisms revealed in the course of a story that quietly and shrewdly combines elements of family melodrama and legal thriller. Because Nader refuses to agree to a divorce or to give the legally required permission for his daughter to travel abroad, he and Simin find themselves at an impasse.
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Like so many fine playwrights, Farhadi works closely with his actors, setting them in true-to-life dramatic situations that speak volumes about class, gender, patriarchy, religion, and politics within contemporary Iranian society, all while somehow evading the ire of Islamic censors. Farhadi stands a good chance of being better known in the States after Sony Pictures Classics releases his latest drama, the Golden Bear—winning A Separation, this week.
Needing to arrange care for his father so he can continue to work at a bank, Nader hires a pregnant, deeply religious woman, Razieh Sareh Bayat , to watch over him. An argument over money and a possible theft climaxes in an incident that lands both parties and their spouses in court, where a dizzying array of perspectives on truth, honor, and responsibility are introduced by the co-plaintiffs, Rashomon-style, leaving the viewer puzzled as to what actually happened and where the blame may lie.
Through these suspenseful deliberations, which carry over into the domestic sphere of each household, Farhadi is able to explore complex social mores and prevailing attitudes in Iran about women and justice, while also portraying the schism between modern and traditional values, wealth and poverty, educated Westernized families and their pious Islamic counterparts.
Filmmaker corresponded with Farhadi via e-mail about morality and law, the arduous task of finding actors and reading Harold Pinter. Filmmaker: Do you see yourself as a moral filmmaker — or as a filmmaker interested in how morality operates in Iranian society? Farhadi: If your definition of a moral filmmaker is the one who advices the audience to respect moral principles, then the answer is no. How do you think an Iranian filmgoer would interpret her remark? On one hand, a mother who tries to take her daughter away from a situation which she finds not appropriate, and on the other hand, a man who thinks the right way is to stay and to try to make things better as much as he can.
Filmmaker: The suspenseful aspects of the film are all tied to the act of caretaking and the nature of responsibility, which is another theme here, along with class divisions. Did the characters come to you first when you began to write A Separation, or the concepts and scenarios? Farhadi: I always start with sculpting the story. I think there are various themes to each story and if the story is developed properly, according to our concerns, we can underline some of these themes.
Filmmaker: Would you say that the anxieties Nader and Simin are struggling with — how to raise a child, how to care for a frail and helpless family member — reflect the national mood of everyday Persians? Farhadi: These worries and concerns are not limited to a certain geographical area or situation. The experience of watching the film alongside audiences from all over the world has shown many human beings are concerned about these subjects, no matter where they live. Here, the canvas is more expansive, dealing with justice, pride, restitution, class privilege, religion, family pressure.
How have your ideas about film — and about what film can accomplish — evolved over the years? With each film I have tried to get closer to such ideas and treat them through different and various angles. Filmmaker: The law and courts that you depict seem to be institutions in continual flux, where the rules are not so much written as decided ad hoc, and perhaps somewhat arbitrarily, by a judge in the course of his deliberations.
Is that an accurate characterization of the system? Farhadi: The film is not about the judiciary system. It looks at a bigger picture; the relation of Law, Morality and Justice, and the contradictions hidden in this relation which can sometimes lead to disaster.
Filmmaker: Have you been influenced at all by literature? If so, by whom, living or dead? I wrote my thesis on the works of Harold Pinter. Before entering university, I studied contemporary Iranian writers, whose works have taught me to write domestically. Writers like Sadegh Choobak, Mahmoud Dolatabadi. How did you approach building the film while editing?
What were your primary goals? During the editing, we worked on the amount and timing of the pieces of information given away to the audience.
Farhadi: This is not the degradation of music; on the contrary, it is because music has such an important position. The realistic atmosphere of A Separation did not allow the use of music. I think of her as the Persian Meryl Streep. Was that true here as well? Farhadi: Casting is one of the most arduous steps of the work. My main concern is to keep the actor away from usual exaggerations of acting.
Usually I go toward professional actors who can play like nonactors. Filmmaker: How do you evaluate your own work? By what standards? I ask myself what would be my reaction to the film? I think everyone works in the same way.
The first critic and judge of every work is its creator. Filmmaker: Is it more important for you to find success abroad or at home? Farhadi: The critical and public acceptance in my country is the most important. Filmmaker: The authorities halted the production of A Separation after you made public remarks in support of Jafar Panahi and other exiled and jailed filmmakers.
What is your hope for them now? Farhadi: I still wish every filmmaker the ability of making the film he wants, freely. Filmmaker: And are you optimistic about the political future of Iran? Farhadi: With all my heart. Related Articles Featured Articles.
Career[ edit ] At the start of his career, Farhadi made numerous short 8mm and 16mm films in the Isfahan branch of the Iranian Young Cinema Society, before moving on to writing plays and screenplays for IRIB. Dancing in the Dust was his feature film debut in ,  which he followed with The Beautiful City , released in The latter film is about a group of Iranians who take a trip to the Iranian beaches of Caspian Sea that turns tragic. Film theorist and critic David Bordwell has called About Elly a masterpiece. On 15 February , it also played in competition at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival , which received a Golden Bear for best film, becoming the first Iranian film to win that award.