A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

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domino harvey
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A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#1 Post by domino harvey » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:38 am

Going in all I knew was the base plot description-- Iranian couple deals with the tribulations of a divorce-- which sounds like Medicine Cinema (as in, "It's good for you!"). But I can happily report that the film is interested in exploring universal themes of personal codes, morality, responsibility, and the nature of truth under the lens of its Tehran setting. Above all this is a fascinatingly moral picture, one in which a small act (which wasn't spoiled for me, though others going in may not be so lucky) has profound and dire consequences for all involved (and many not), the true reality of which is constantly evolving as the film progresses. What really happened is not nearly as interesting as what the characters think, suspect, accuse happened, and the film is driven by these driven characters, interacting with the dangerous abandon that comes from self-righteousness. A Separation raises, debates, counters so many arguments that half the fun is watching the film argue with itself.

Everyone pulls their weight but despite Leila Hatami being in the forefront of advertising for the film, this is really Peyman Moaadi's film, and he gives one of the year's best performances in a passionate and nuanced role that could easily have slipped into a more easily definable marginalized binary of emotion. The actors are all helped by the filmmaker, who brings the events to life with kinetic energy and an eye for naturalistic effect.

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zedz
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#2 Post by zedz » Wed Dec 07, 2011 5:59 pm

Yes, this is a really good film: the kind of solid, complex, intelligent and compelling drama that really shouldn't be as rare as it is. Deft, flexible filmmaking bouncing off a bundle of spot-on performances, all grounded in a smart script.

For me personally, it was overshadowed by Mohammad Rasoulof's (last?) film Goodbye, which covers a lot of the same ground, but this is very fine in its own right, and probably much more likely to get broader mainstream exposure and acceptance.

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tarpilot
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#3 Post by tarpilot » Wed Dec 07, 2011 6:11 pm

I liked it quite a bit as well, and
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I agree about its contradictions, particularly the "if you want me to, I'll tell them" exchange. I was worried up to that point that the daughter was becoming a bit too much of a plot cipher in repeatedly tripping up the father's story, but that moment functions as a dramatic undercutting of his character and a welcome enhancing of hers via the monstrous pressure, and really engendered me to anything else Farhadi was willing to try. If I have one quibble, it's the extremely ill-advised music cue as the credits roll.

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swo17
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#4 Post by swo17 » Wed Dec 07, 2011 6:30 pm

zedz wrote:probably much more likely to get broader mainstream exposure and acceptance
It's actually the highest rated 2011 film on the IMDb, currently placing in about the middle of the Top 250. :shock: What, was there no Batman movie this year?

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zedz
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#5 Post by zedz » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:42 pm

(I was going to call it a crowd-pleaser - which is the audience response I observed - but I thought that might seem derogatory and it would definitely misrepresent the tone of the film).

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Brian C
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#6 Post by Brian C » Thu Dec 08, 2011 1:18 am

Opening in Chicago January 27. Looking forward to it.

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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#7 Post by Adam » Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:36 pm

A really superb drama for adults. Saw it in Telluride.

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thirtyframesasecond
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#8 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Fri Dec 09, 2011 5:05 pm

Best film of the year, hands down.

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swo17
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#9 Post by swo17 » Sat Dec 24, 2011 8:13 pm

I don't have much to add to the praise others have offered this, other than that, intrigued by A Separation, I went to check out Farhadi's previous film, About Elly. It's actually very similarly constructed and themed in a lot of ways, if perhaps not quite as fully formed. The less you know going in the better, but suffice it to say that Farhadi seems to be attracted to the idea of people neglecting their charges to others who are supposed to be in their care. Anyway, it's worth seeking out for those who liked A Separation. A promising director.

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dad1153
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#10 Post by dad1153 » Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:22 pm

Just came from seeing it at Film Forum at NYC. Terrific and dramatic film that is gripping, totally character-driven (even the law clerks/judges are given at least a scene or two to show they're just human cogs in the machine) and, best of all, isn't just "Kramer vs. Kramer" set in Iran (though it bears a passing resemblance to that Robert Benton movie in that we spend more time with Peyman Moaadi than with Leila Hatami, who starts the ball rolling like Meryl Streep's Joanna did in "KvK"). The less you know about the plot/story going in the better (I didn't) but even I have to admit that, toward the end, I started to feel the cheating hand of a procedural plot steering the story down one too many sudden reveals about character motivations. I want to see it again knowing what comes later to check if, like "The Sixth Sense," the movie played fair. Thankfully all the characters (particularly Sareh Bayat's Razieh) don't come from stock characterizations but from understanding the mindset of average people under pressure (financial, emotional, religious, etc.) from the realities of modern life. One question the movie leaves unanswered for those that care to speculate:
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who took the money that Nader accusses Razieh of stealing? It's supposed to be open-ended and up for interpretation, but I thought either the elder grandparent took it to go get the newspaper or Razieh's daughter took it and didn't tell anyone but hinted at it when she told Nader point-blank that her mother didn' take the money. Heck, maybe Termeh took it.


Gotta go, between "The Descendants," "A Separation" and probably "Margaret" after I see it tonight ("M:I Ghost Protocol" and "The Iron Lady" were busts!) my top list for 2011 has to be shuffled and re-shuffled... again!

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FerdinandGriffon
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#11 Post by FerdinandGriffon » Sun Jan 01, 2012 11:36 am

The Sixth Sense played fair?

Unquestionably a good film, but not a surprising one. A lot of clumsy plot manipulations and convenient character decisions. Several of the roles are underwritten, esp. that of Leila Hatami, who's mostly just there to look flustered and oppose her husband, but Maadi's Nader is fascinating and beautifully portrayed.

stroszeck
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#12 Post by stroszeck » Mon Jan 09, 2012 2:34 pm

Have to agree with pretty much everyone else's positive impression of the film. Of course, Iran has been going through a lot politically but the cinematic "revolution" that's taken shape over the past 15 years or so has been quite remarkable. As for the grumblings about Hatami's character being minor, I felt the amount of screentime she had was adequate, after all the film focuses more on the husband and the housekeeper and to gripe about the various other characters (housekeeper's husband, teachers at school, judge etc) not having enough screentime (already the film clocks in at about 2 1/2 hrs) is pointless. Its a funny thing that everyone seems to have a different idea of
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where the money is. I absolutely thought the little girl took it based on that line of questioning she had but my friend who saw it with me for the second time said it might have been taken by Hatami's character at the beginning of the film where it shows her shuffling through the wad of money she had saved, and maybe she just lumped it into that stash.
overall a wholly satisfying movie that reminded me more of a melodramatic version of a story the Dardenne brothers would have made, particularly the visual elements (framing, mise en scene) that made many moments feel claustrophobic. Definitely one of the best of the year.

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puxzkkx
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#13 Post by puxzkkx » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:34 pm

I loved the use of space in this film. Before the POV shifts to Moaadi & Farhadi in the second half, their apartment is only glimpsed through the periphery of (often shallow) closeups that are frenetically strung together to prevent the audience from really developing an idea of how the space is laid out. It becomes a maze visually but also thematically, as Bayat's character finds herself so lost here relative to her sense of social etiquette that she finds her every action tinged with risk.

That undercurrent of fear and potential danger was a really impressive part of Farhadi's previous film About Elly, as well. He makes these incredibly dense, well-plotted 'mysteries' but uses them to explore how the atmosphere of danger in Iran - especially for women, who could find their lives or reputations at risk for quite simple things - encourages a culture of deceit and therefore engenders spiralling situations like the ones depicted in these two films.

The ensemble here is great. My only qualm is Farhadi having his physically very blatantly 18-year-old daughter play a 10(!!)-year-old. That being said she does wonderfully and, along with Bayat and Moaadi, is one of the MVPs of the ensemble.

As for the money, its fate is actually shown in film, but very subtly -
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it is the money that Hatami's character gives to the movers near the very beginning of the film. She is seen taking the money out of the drawer and counting it. Because that money was kept aside as savings it was not immediately apparent to Moaadi's character that it was missing.


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MichaelB
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#15 Post by MichaelB » Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:39 am

I have little to add to the above: like Zedz, I agree that this is the kind of "well-made film" that really shouldn't be as rare as it often is.

In Farhadi's treatment of the various characters and their assorted dilemmas, I was strongly reminded of the screenplays of Krzysztof Kieślowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz (especially the ones they wrote between 1984 and 1989), in which they almost effortlessly open up knotty moral and ethical issues without ever making it seem as though they're crudely shoehorning them into the drama.

I really hope it wins the Oscar - not just for its abundant merits as a film, but also because I can see it performing a similar diplomatic role to Vladimir Menshov's Moscow Distrusts Tears at a time when its country of production is being widely demonised and indeed actively threatened. Farhadi's film is far subtler than Menshov's soapy melodrama, but it has the similar effect of depicting the Tehran middle classes as being recognisably "normal" human beings, with their own universal concerns - and light years from the caricatures that we're usually presented with. Obviously, this isn't news to anyone who's been charting the course of Iranian cinema over the last two decades, but A Separation seems to be attracting a substantially bigger audience, with a correspondingly greater reach.
puxzkkx wrote:As for the money, its fate is actually shown in film, but very subtly -
SpoilerShow
it is the money that Hatami's character gives to the movers near the very beginning of the film. She is seen taking the money out of the drawer and counting it. Because that money was kept aside as savings it was not immediately apparent to Moaadi's character that it was missing.
I've just checked, and this is indeed the case - but it's easy to see how you'd miss it on a first-time viewing. But Farhadi doesn't cheat: as with Dario Argento's famous shot of the killer in Deep Red, everything is right there on screen for whose who care to look for it (it's approx 9 minutes in, for those with the Blu-ray or a NTSC DVD).

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Drucker
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#16 Post by Drucker » Sun Feb 12, 2012 1:41 pm

I saw this film last night and really loved it. I guess I don't have that much more to add than other people, but I would like to add about how I read the film's general tone, and see if anyone else saw it like I did:
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The "separation" I feel the film talks about is really miniscule. In other words, what separates us as a people is really insignificant, and our differences are ultimately so much less important than what unifies us. At the film's outset, the wife talks about not wanting to raise her child in this place "during these times." The film remains claustrophobic and hectic throughout when people are in public, as town centers and places they go and roads they drive on and even the gas station is always crowded. When they go to the hospital to visit the woman after her miscarriage, as the main character tries to console the husband whose wife had the miscarriage, he starts to empathize with the man, saying he knows how it is to be on hard times. The way I read this is that he'd likely been in the same place. His opposite rejects the gesture, but throughout the movie, they both refuse to bow to their ego, and let bygones be bygones, which in a way leads to both of their downfalls, and neither of them ends up with what they were holding out for.

But sometimes fate can be as finnicky as the way the wind blows. These are two peers. Both fathers, both with one daughter. Things could've easily gone sour for one man, and be going better for the other. They really aren't that different. Again, what separates them is very little. If only they could see that, instead of focusing on their differences ("This one doesn't have a God" for example) things in general would be so much better, and maybe the "times" wouldn't be so negative.
Thoughts? Sorry if this is totally obvious or way off the mark, but that's how I feel about it.

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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#17 Post by MichaelB » Sun Feb 12, 2012 1:45 pm

That makes perfect sense to me: it's clear that the people on either side of the legal divide have far more in common than otherwise, despite their marked division (or 'separation') in terms of wealth, social class, etc. And I doubt this was a coincidence.

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Jeff
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#18 Post by Jeff » Sun Feb 12, 2012 7:29 pm

Don't have anything to add to the already eloquent chorus of praise here, except my own encouragement to see it if you have an opportunity. Just an incredible script, in the way it hides and reveals information. Farhadi does the same with angles and cuts. Michael's spot-on in his reference to Decalogue-era Kieslowski. As many have said, the less you know about the plot going in, the better. It's a shame that About Elly apparently didn't get American distribution. I'm anxious to track it down now. Can anyone comment on Fireworks Wednesday, which is available from (gulp!) Facets?

EDIT: A Separation was apparently entirely made in three months for less than $800,000 U.S. Wow!

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thirtyframesasecond
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#19 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Mon Feb 13, 2012 1:35 pm

Leila Hatami was first cast in Dariush Mehrjui's 'Leila', again about a marriage in crisis. I saw his 'Hamoon' this weekend, about another marriage in crisis, all the remarkable for being a 1989 film shot in Fellini-esque style. Anyway, not sure this means anything except giving A Separation a bit more context (or not).

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dustybooks
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#20 Post by dustybooks » Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:22 pm

Wow, this movie was superb -- caught the last showing last night at our semi-arthouse venue in town -- and I'm still digesting it, can't stop thinking about the moral quandaries it presents and the warring elements of truth and responsibility it juggles. As Domino said at the top of the thread, I was expecting something totally different, a pretty heavy drama about divorce, and of course,
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that's really the crux of the film in the end, but I did not expect such a gripping and detailed story that plays disparate strands of courtroom and detective melodramas against its heavy emotional center.
I love that the film told a story that could happen anywhere, but couldn't happen anywhere except its setting in quite this fashion, and I love its humanism that threatens to pull you in four or more directions. As Farhadi has said, the modern moral battles are those against good and good.

I agree with many above that the standout performance is Peyman Moadi's -- he captures so well the balancing act of best intentions for all concerned versus a visceral reaction to the events that unfold, and his statement that
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(paraphrasing) he "knew" Razieh was pregnant but did not know in the heated moment was, I felt, the most resonant and revealing moment of all. The only dubious moment for me was when he breaks down crying; I get that he was bottling things up to maintain an appearance of control that rarely cracks, but it seemed slightly superfluous to me. I may change my mind on second viewing.
The slightly misleading marketing campaign for the film may in fact be helping its victory over audiences, because it's allowing us to enter the movie absolutely blind to the story it really tells and the things it wrestles with.

Oh, and a big thanks to puxzkkx for the explanation about
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where the money went. I was conscious of that while it was happening but failed to make the connection later. Amazing how many details in the film that seem to just be background character development turn out to be integral to the story.

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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#21 Post by wattsup32 » Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:13 am

I finally got to see this. I always hate to judge the performances from movies that are in a language I don't understand because I can't say with any expertise whether or not the dialogue was well delivered, but I'll go out on a limb here and say the performances were remarkably strong. Even the grandfather who had essentially no lines was terrific. The physicality of how emotions were expressed was astounding. The performances were powerful enough that I now wonder if I could have just ignored the subtitles and still gotten as much out of the film.

I especially loved that, expect for the credits at either end, it was unscored. Scores are almost always my least favorite part of any film because they are over used and lack subtlety. It was refreshing to see a story told through image instead of music.

While I agree with what has been said about the questions, themes, and their presentation in fact, I don't share the same assessment with most here. I found it all very obvious and shallow (save, perhaps, Termeh's arc). At some point I said to myself, "This is a comedy of errors without the comedy." But, I'm happy I saw it. It is definitely worth the time. But, I probably won't see it again.

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Jeff
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#22 Post by Jeff » Mon Jul 02, 2012 11:03 pm

The Sony Blu-ray, due August 21, will include commentary with Asghar Farhadi and pieces called “An Evening with Asghar Farhadi” and “Birth of a Director.”

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tachyonEvan
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#23 Post by tachyonEvan » Thu Jul 19, 2012 3:40 pm

What are the odds of this seeing a Criterion release? Certified Copy got one soon after release, I think this is a much better film, though Farghadi doesn't have the clout that Kiarostami does.

Sorry if this is a ridiculous question, clearly I'm new.

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knives
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#24 Post by knives » Thu Jul 19, 2012 4:02 pm

It's won't happen as Criterion do not have the rights.

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swo17
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Re: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)

#25 Post by swo17 » Thu Jul 19, 2012 4:04 pm

And Sony's already releasing it on Blu-ray next month.

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