- Published on Friday, 14 October 2011 08:08
Recently, special screening of Iran’s official entry to the American Academy Awards was shown at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center. The film, “A Separation,” is an emotionally riveting drama produced, written and directed by Asghar Farhadi. It will premiere in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on December 30.
Set in contemporary Iran and shown in Farsi with English subtitles, the movie is about a woman named Simin who wants to take her husband Nader and their daughter, Termeh, to live abroad. She feels that Iran is not a place for her studious, 11-year-old to grow up. But Simin’s father-in-law is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Nader does not want to leave him behind.
Simin sues for divorce and is denied. Hurt that her husband does not want to leave with her, she goes to live with her parents. Termeh stays with Nader and her ailing grandfather. Nader hires a young woman to help with his father and take care of the house in his wife’s absence. However, she has some secrets of her own.
The rest of the movie is filled with suspenseful yet clever plot twists that keep you guessing. But the raw, human emotion portrayed so perfectly by these actors is what makes the film so delightful to watch.
“A Separation” won several awards at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival, including Best Film. It was the Audience Award winner at the 2011 Fajr Film Festival and has been featured at the 2011 New York Film Festival, the 2011 Telluride Film Festival and the 2011 Toronto Film Festival.
Farhadi, who was born in Isfahan, Iran, answered questions through a translator after the New York screening. He told the audience that he did not want to explain the film too much otherwise it would “ruin the image that is already in your minds.”
Farhadi said that some parts of the film come from his personal life and some come from his imagination.
“Don’t worry, I still live with my wife,” he said. “The old man who has Alzheimer’s, that is part of my personal life.”
He said that the story, which is his fifth feature, is essentially a mystery.
“From my point of view, this is a detective story, but the detective is the audience,” Farhadi explained. “When you’re making a detective film, you want the audience to find the information.”
Farhadi said his characters are so realistic because he takes his time with casting.
“Before entering cinema, I worked and studied theater for years and learned how to make a relationship with my actors,” he said. “It takes a very long period to choose an actor – about two months. I never explain characters directly to actors.”
Farhadi said he tries to make the actor experience the same things that the character did.
“In the film there is a very religious character and I didn’t try to explain it in the script to the actor,” he explained. “The actor wore a chador – which was very hard in the beginning – and started using public transit. After she did these exercises for a few months, she became a religious person. But don’t worry, right now she is not religious anymore.”
Farhadi admitted that the film is supposed to have a haunting quality.
“This type of film does not answer questions, it raises them,” he said. “When you bring up questions, the film continues in your head and you keep thinking about it.”
Because the film is shown around the world, Farhadi said different audiences take away different things.
“By putting all these references together, audiences throughout the world get unique answers,” he said, noting that cultural references are picked up in a variety of ways, depending on what part of the world you live in. “All answers are personal, but none of them are wrong.”
Farhadi feels that although the film accurately portrays Iran’s justice system and everyday life in society, you don’t have to live there to understand.
“It stands as cinema, you don’t have to understand where the country is coming from,” he said. “Sometimes an outside audience can pick up on things that an Iranian audience cannot.”
Lastly, Farhadi said that any preconceived notions about Iran should be thrown out the window before watching the film.
“Iranian society has lots of problems, but not the type that you think,” he said. “When we say ‘Iranian society,’ we mean different subcultures, such as rural, suburban and urban. I would never make a film that I cannot show in Iran. My people must see it.”by Denise Romano, Aslan Media Contributor