Built in the backdrop of modern-day Iran, A Separation is a careful interjection into the constructed realities of two interconnected families that are bound by the convictions of their religious duties juxtaposed against their unvaried lives.
Nader and Simin are introduced as a happily married couple who debate the possibility of moving abroad to secure better opportunities for their daughter. However, Nader’s steadfast devotion to the care of his ailing father cause an inevitable rift in their love. They are then fraught in the misery of a bitter separation which consequently leads to the invitation of a much-needed caregiver for the father.
An economically deprived Razieh, who is notably pregnant with her second child, rises to the offer but fails to fulfil her duties, due to personal and religious constraints, which casts her as an alleged fraud and a thief. Her altercation with Nader following a heated argument leads the both of them onto an ill-fated miscarriage and a vindictive legal battle for the reparation.
Razieh’s stern religious beliefs are constantly collocated with her desperate socio-economic conditions while Nader’s hardships are all too heart-rending to sway the audience to a vast expanse of empathy.
The intersectionality of Nader and Razieh’s stories, as we witness it through the proceedings of their legal battle, makes us question the permanence of the “right” and the “wrong” as they appear to be constituted in a disharmonious relationship with the inexorable constraints of one’s grueling reality. While all the characters weigh their decisions within the seemingly unforgiving boundaries of the Islamic law, each of them encounter the nuanced contours of it through a different lens of upkeeping its legitimacy.
The capacity of the characters to evoke a sense of empathy towards their actions, irrespective of them being conventionally acceptable or not, is what drives the audience to appreciate the performative narrative of A Separation in its totality. Thus, the film speaks volumes for its ideation as a narrative sincerely dedicated to the people and the society of Iran.
Asghar Farhadi’s tryst with escaping censorship is heavily outlined in A Separation’s honest representation of the Iranian social complex and its cultural ethos. The film is simple and yet, not simple at all, as it maneuvers across multiple sides of Iranian religious fervor, cultural norms, gendered discrimination, classist hierarchies, familial allegiances and the law of the land.
At the end of the day, A Separation is not a film that has an unequivocal resolution or one that resounds a perfect conclusion because the same is seldom true in case of reality. The film, instead, reflects the unambiguity of human life without glossing over the parts that are unsettled and unanswered. In doing so, the film effectively leads us to ponder over its discourse by allowing us to find a Nader, a Simin, a Razieh or a Termeh embedded within us.
- Manisha, B.A. English (Hons.), 3rd Year