A Separation

March 4, 2012 10 Comments

What draws a couple together?  What breaks them apart?   Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation” turns the spotlight on a conflicted Iranian family and permits us the honor of watching them struggle with problems that feel insoluble.   This grippingly emotional film won (and deserved) this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Film.  It is a film that offers no easy answers.  Who is right?  Who is wrong?  Who is good?  Who is bad?  No one is blameless and there are no villians.   Should a mother long to protect her daughter and offer her the best future she can muster?   Should a father care for his ailing, demented father who can no longer care for himself?    Farhadi’s film allows us to feel the anguish of each person and struggle with them to find some way to accomdate the needs of each worthy person.  There are cultural issues as well that are woven into this personal story without seeming heavy handed or preachy.  The ending captures the essence of  the story  in a way that most Hollywood films  reject for commercial reasons.  A satisfying ending that requires (and assumes) that the audience will welcome the struggle and ambiguity.

Originally scheduled only at the Detroit Film Theatre, its screen time has been expanded by the Oscar nod and it is now screening at the Maple Theatre..check the times and experience a must see film moment……Isn’t it interesting that Iran has become such a film force?    …Don’t miss this one!!!    Jolyn Wagner

Must See Movie of the Week
10 Comments to “A Separation”
  1. Bruce Russell says:

    The movie is intriguing because curious events are left unexplained until the end. Why does the housekeeper leave the Alzheimer’s dad alone? Why did she lose her fetus? Why doesn’t she tell her husband the truth about why she lost it? Who stole the money from the house? Where did the wife get the money to pay the piano movers? Does the wife leave the husband only because of the daughter or is there some deeper rift between them?

    The film also makes us think that lots of problems in life could be avoided through compromise and truth-telling. If the housekeeper had been able to tell her husband the truth, all the legal wranglings could have been avoided. If the husband had been willing to take his Alzheimer’s father out of the country, along with his daughter and wife, the rift between husband and wife could have been avoided. That, in turn, would have prevented the daughter from being put in the middle, faced with the terrible dilemma of choosing between her mother and father. The film would not have been as good without the obstacles that create tension, but life would have been better.

    The ending reminded me of the ending of the Sopranos: it left us hanging in an unsatisfying way! Why not have the father die with the relationship between husband and wife still up in the air, but now not because of the son’s desire to care for his father?

  2. jolyn says:

    I felt that the end was satisfying…although I was deprived of access to the daughter’s actual choice she repeatedly tells us the decision has been made creating yet another separation….very fitting…uneasy as intended bit very fitting..what makes an ending feel right? Interesting.jolyn

  3. Bruce Russell says:

    I agree that it is hard to say what makes an ending fitting, or feel right. But take a film I know you like, Melancholia. Suppose the film had ended as the other planet was approaching earth, but we never learn whether it hits earth or not. That would have built up tension without a point because there would have been no resolution, no release of the dramatic tension. That’s what I feel about the ending of A Separation. The tension is built up, but we get no release. There are natural releases, say, if (as I suggested) the father had died. Then the grounds for the conflict between the husband and wife wold have been removed. We won’t know how things move forward, but no new tension has been built up that calls for a resolution. The tension that has built up has been released. So that ending would be fitting. The actual one, where tension is at a peak but not released, is not fitting. If the film had not led up to the choice, it could have been different because some other tension could have been produced and then released.

  4. jolyn says:

    The ending creates the experience of the daughter…a separation inflicted upon her for reasons beyond her control..is it expressing the sad reality that for her it doesn’t matter which side she ends up choosing…touching and poetically portrayed on the film ….a separation…..jolyn

  5. Bruce Russell says:

    Jolyn,
    I guess you do not deny my claim that, other things being equal, an ending that does not resolve dramatic tension that has been built up is not as desirable as one that does. Still, you might be arguing that others things are not equal, and so the actual ending is the best one. I just don’t think that’s true. There would still be a separation between wife and husband, and the impact of that separation on the daughter, if the father died but the future between husband and wife (and so of the family) was left open. It would leave open the question of whether there was a deeper rift between husband and wife than that over concern for the father vs. concern for the daughter. That surface rift would be resolved with the death of the father, and so that dramatic tension released, and the possible new tension about a deeper rift would not have been developed, only broached.

  6. jolyn says:

    I guess I do not agree that the best ending for s film(not life
    ) OS the one that resolves the dramatic
    tension..seems too formulaic and liimiting
    to me..some times leaving with uncertainty can be very unsettling and powerful and satisfying…and sometimes resolution is the best ending..it depends on the world created by the film.

  7. Bruce Russell says:

    I’m not saying that the best ending for a film is always the one that resolves the dramatic tension. My view is that that consideration always counts in favor of an ending’s being the best. If there is not another consideration that counts against such an ending being the best, then it is the best all-things-considered. The consideration you adduce, that the daughter’s separation from her parents contributes to the overall theme of the film, does count in favor of the actual ending of the film. But the one I propose (having the father with Alzheimer’s die) also contributes to the overall theme of the film since the separation between husband and wife will remain and be left unresolved. In addition, that ending offers a release of the built up tension without introducing a new, undeveloped tension. So the ending I propose has two things going for it, yours one, and one of those two things is of the same sort as the consideration you offer. All things considered, that makes the ending I propose better than the one that actually appears in the film. If X has good-making properties P1 & P2 and Y only has good-making property P2, then X is better than Y, all-things-considered.

  8. selmanidis says:

    who stole the money?
    Asghar Farhadi says: Of course I’m also careful not to make everything so enigmatic that the audience grows confused and detached. But consider the example of the missing money; the audience thinks about what happened to the money? Why wasn’t that clarified? Who stole the money? In fact, the explanation may be embedded in the movie but when the audience was watching the scene, the moment didn’t seem important and so they don’t remember. In the opening scene we see Simin give the money to the movers who are hauling the piano, but the action doesn’t seem noteworthy enough for us to remember. It is in fact such unremarkable details that add up to crises later, just like in real life where we take the events that eventually develop into crises as insignificant at the time they occur.

  9. Evy Shareff says:

    I wonder if the film has been edited..The credits come up sharply without pause.. It is to be noted the gala to honor the film maker was cancelled by the Iranian officials. This story about “Blood Money” is in the Jewish Torah… I note that it has been kept in the Queran…Important to note in a society and religion which gives none or minimal rights to women, they have preserved a law in which the mother, not the father has the right of compensation. Perhaps indicating that indeed that it’s the woman’s right to choose… The fetus is accepted as her loss, and hers alone..

  10. Loretta Polish says:

    Both children, with their long silences and large eyes, see all and say little, constituting a kind-of greek chorus; they are the holders of the truth, the oracles of ethical/moral judgements, and we, the audience are invited to project our own judgements onto them. Which parent the daughter chooses, or who stole the money is beside the point. One ambiguous situation piles on top of the next. We are denied our inclination to spilt the characters into good and bad. jWhat is highlighted is the moral
    ambiguity in interpersonal relations.

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