Iranian Film Mirrors Real Life Dilemma
|March 15, 2012|
A Separation is an Iranian movie that depicts a common dilemma among Iranian families to emigrates or stay in Iran. The movie, written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, received the Oscar for The Best International Film, the Golden Bear for Best Film, and the Silver Bear for both Best Actress and Best Actor at the Berlin Film Festival. It has received rave reviews from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Guardian.
Simin (Leila Hatami) wishes to emigrate abroad to provide better opportunities for her only daughter, Termeh, but Nader (Peyman Moaadi) refuses to go with his wife and wants to stay in Iran to take care of his elderly father who suffers from Alzheimers. Simin is determined to get a divorce and leave the country without him.
Iranian blogger Homayon Kheyri analyzes the film on his blog which helps the viewer better understand the movie and find a deeper insight on Iranian society and the dilemmas often faced by it’s citizens.
So, who represents whom?
Nader (the husband) represents Iranian society; he struggles between modernity and tradition/custom.
Grandfather represents tradition in society. His Alzheimers is our historic memory; we neither can shut our eyes to it nor can it survive without society’s help.
Simin (the wife) represents modernity in society. She convinces Nader (society) that emigration is their best option. She knows more than the other characters in the movie and knows how to negotiate.
The pregnant woman (home-care attendant to the grandfather) represents religion in Iran. She wants to help the Grandfather (tradition) and wishes to remove burdens from Nader’s (society’s) shoulders but she is too busy dealing with the religious aspect of her situation (Sharia Law) and becomes yet another burden for Nader. Her abortion mirrors Iran’s current situation: the religious state is incapable of rebirth. In other words, the regime is hopelessly incapable of change.
The pregnant woman’s husband: represents the clergy in society. He is in debt to countless people and he speaks for his wife (religion), who is his only source of income, either through providing services like taking care of tradition (grandfather), or through redress (suing for the loss of her baby).
Termeh (Simin and Nader’s daughter) is a symbol of Iran’s future. Iran’s youth has been caught in the middle of the conflict between society, tradition, religion, and modernity and are unable to choose. The movie leaves her future in doubt, just as Iran’s youth’s future is uncertain.
The little girl is a symbol of the present. No one sees her! She plays with grandfather’s oxygen cylinder, like Namjoo’s music [Muhsen Namjoo is a famous Iranian musician who The New York Times called Iran’s Bob Dylan]. The blogger is referring to Iran’s new generation’s bafflement with the old generation].
And now the story
Simin (modernity), the pregnant woman (religion), Termeh (the future) and the little girl (the present) all are of the same sex and fertile, but they need an additional element to be productive.
The cause and effect each character’s choices has on another interesting in light of the characters’ symbolism. For instance, the “future” is the product of “society” and “modernity”, which is also relevant in the real world; each “society” is the product of its understanding combined with “innovation”. On the other hand, the product of the “clergy” and “religion” is the “present,” a witness to everything and a narrator that is unable to act. The “clergy” and religion’s attempt to procreate (pregnancy) fails due to society’s clash.
Even though Nader (society) rejects the renewal of religion in order to continue practicing tradition, in fact, it’s tradition (grandpa) who causes the end of regeneracy of religion.
Additionally, there is a relationship between society and tradition as compared to religion and tradition. For example, Nader washes his father in bathroom with gloves where he cries out against his own feelings of captivity. The caretaker also changes the grandfather’s clothes in the same bathroom, also with gloves but her gloves prevent her hands from getting wet while the son’s gloves are unable to do so.
The caretaker’s husband is very angry. He (clergy) shouts, “I am a human, too”. His unemployment and debts are symbolic of religious leaders governing in Iran.
Nader, Simin and Termeh see their car’s rear window has been broken when they leave the home-care attendent’s home; it is obvious that the home care attendent’s husband did it. He is angry about failing, so he destroys the car, like religious leaders in Iran. When they can’t convince society to obey them, they use thugs, like in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election when the militia destroyed people’s cars at random.
In this movie, Farhadi, the director, expresses a belief that the current discord in Iranian society is caused by a simultaneous desire to keep tradition while welcoming modernity, even as religion struggles to survive the corruption and stagnation of the clergy.
While Termeh (the future) must decide either to maintain tradition and society or move towards modernity, it becomes clear that religion has become sterilized as the clergy is in prison.