Sunday, 8 January 2012

A Separation, dir/wr. Asghar Farhadi, st. Leila Hatami, Peyman Moaadi, Shahab Hosseini

At times during this emotionally exhausting drama, Director Farhadi and his actors make us forget we are watching a construction, such is its intensely immersive power. Intimately shot on handheld cameras and portrayed with terrifying realism, A Separation takes us into the household of Nader and Simin, a middle-class Iranian couple on the verge of the titular separation. Their 11-year-old daughter and Nader's Alzheimer-afflicted Father find themselves caught in the crossfire when pregnant Razieh, employed to look after the house-bound patient, is accused of neglect. What plays out is a volley of accusations and counter-accusations from both sides fuelled by pride, piety, stubbornness and misplaced indignation. The culture may be different, but the way people behave remains the same. Everybody lies. Farhadi's film is a car-crash in slow-motion illustrating how deceit and conflict ripple out on a cripplingly destructive path. Scenes depicting the chaos and confusion of an overburdened and at-capacity people's court are particularly effective as we see the poor judge unpick their (and others' no doubt) domestic woes with tired impartiality. The argumentative theatricality may be tough going for some people, but it all builds to an effective and predictably bleak conclusion.