Asghar Farhadi and Iran’s Middle Class
“A Separation” written and directed by Asghar Farhadi (the Iranian director who refused to come to the Academy Awards in the face of the 2016 travel ban) is incredibly layered, subtle, smart, and audacious. As this movie won the 2012 Oscar for Best Foreign Film, Farhadi’s decision in 2016 made headlines. This is a man who knows a thing or two about government oppression.
One wonders how Farhadi’s movies survive official censors in Iran and yet they do screen in Tehran. The plot hinges on Nadar’s refusal to leave Iran with his wife, Simin, after they have managed to obtain expensive visas for themselves and their daughter because Nadar needs to care for his elderly father who suffers from dementia.
The story is intricate and spellbinding with Farhadi’s expert use of visuals to create a claustrophobic atmosphere that underscores how completely no one “wins”.
The vast chasms between educated, relatively liberal people like Simin and Nadar and their less educated antagonists is something unacknowledged in our limited understanding of Iranian culture. Iran is not Saudi Arabia and women like Simin drive and have professional careers but at the center of all decisions and motivations sits the inescapable rule of Islam which stymies every life in the movie.
This is a powerful, difficult, complex movie that requires more than one viewing.