#105: A Separation (2011)

When and how did I watch this?

September 7th, 2016, on Amazon Instant Video.

Had I seen this film already?


What did I know about the movie before watching it?

Iranian film about a marriage gone awry and the fallout thereafter.

What do I know about it now?

They don’t make them like this here in the U.S. Life and marriage gets complicated in A Separation: a daughter is left to decide where her loyalty rests among two distressed parents, an aging man with Alzheimer’s is at the whim of hired help, a poor couple finds their already abysmal situation suddenly getting worse, and greed begins to take everyone over, all because of a broken marriage.  How important is it to put away your pride and stick it out? Paramount, according to this film.  Everything is set up at the start — the opening scene features the couple in their own chairs facing the camera, apparently addressing a judge regarding the woman’s desire to leave. The film omits a musical score, producing marked tension in every scene thereafter.  Everything about it is deadly serious. We also get a fascinating glimpse into how civil cases are handled — a judge presides in a small room, and the two sides are present, along with any witnesses they brought along.  If any evidence or testimony is missing, the casual trial is halted until a witness or piece of evidence is produced. No lawyer is necessary — only verifiable truth. Honesty is a huge deal in the culture, and ultimately leads to the film’s conclusion.  The cinematography borrows from the trendy handheld format, but rarely pulls away from close shots of the characters, forcing us to examine every facial expression, breath, and word. What a masterpiece.

What are some themes in the film?

Pride, social class, economics, religion and culture, family

Did this affect me personally?

Yes.  The most important scene in the film might be during the credits.  Another scene when Nader is bathing is oblivious father and gradually breaks down into hysterical sobbing is cinema gold.

Why is this ranked #105?

Shoot.  It’s because not enough people have seen it.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She was equally enraptured by this one.

Would I watch it again?

Yes, although it wouldn’t be a film I’d watch while hanging out with friends and digging into a bowl of popcorn.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

It’s an important film that no one should miss.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Yes.  A Separation does what great movies are supposed to do: evoke emotion, keep the viewer’s attention, drive all of the human elements necessary into the story, and profoundly change the viewer’s mind about how things ought to be. We’re left with a beginning in the end, which is how life works. Life moves on. This film recognizes this: it tells the story, but in a way that reminds us how important our decisions impact everything thereafter.

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