Sometimes political and cultural news just doesn’t add up. At a moment when Iran and the West are moving closer to outright confrontation, the Iranian film A Separation
has become a Hollywood darling.
Well-received both in Iran and in the West, the film begins with the story of Nader and Simin, who want a divorce. However, after a dispute between Nader and the maid he has engaged to take on Simin’s domestic duties, it swiftly becomes an intellectual puzzle where it is difficult to distinguish lies from truth.
The film is not without political undertones – Simin says she wants to leave Iran to give her daughter a better future – but the plot gets it power from universal issues of love, truth, and fear.
Nader’s difficulties in caring for his elderly father should resonate with audiences from Japan to Florida. And while in this case it might be represented by a black chador and a casual headscarf, the tension between wealthy urbanites and their servants is replicated across the globe.
The issues may be easy to understand, but this does not always lead to comfortable viewing, thanks to the use of hand-held camera, a stripped down soundtrack and a plot that involves frequent shouting matches. Such techniques make the film real.
At least, that is how it might seem. As the plot proceeds, however, it becomes clear that even the scenes captured on camera cannot tell the whole truth.
As much a meditation on right and wrong as a domestic drama, A Separation has the clout to win at least one Oscar on February 26. But it should also be a timely reminder that there is more to Iran than Ahmadinejad.
The next showing of A Separation is at Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Place (020 749 3654), Wednesday 25 January 2012 at 3.25pm.