Saturday, January 05, 2013

A Separation - Praise For Its Presentation of Honesty and Integrity

Sarina Farhadi as Termah, in the Iranian Oscar Winning film (directed by her father Ashgar Farhadi), A Separation
I can think of very few films in modern times that create a picture of moral conflict in the way we see in 2011's Oscar winning foreign language film, A Separation.

What strikes me in regards to their moral conflict is that the heart of their dilemma comes from the way their words way on their moral character.

In the film, a woman, Simin, attempts to divorce her husband for what the judge considers "small things" and does not grant the divorce. With general apathy and stubbornness on the part of her husband, Nader, the woman leaves, pretending to leave the country. Nader and Simin's daughter Termah stays at her home with her father, knowing her mother has not gone far. At her home, the eleven year old girl lives with her father and senile grandfather, and a woman is hired to watch over the grandfather while everyone else is gone during the day.

A series of events play out that puts these characters in conflict, and with layers of stage play style secrecy (everyone knows a little bit of something, but not the whole story) the inner conflict comes out. The conflict is with one another on the surface, but in a powerful way the conflict is truly internal conflict with their own morality, and in this case with God, particularly when characters are asked in a few scenes to swear on the Qur'an.

One of the things I appreciate about this film is it's presentation that integrity matters. It's unfortunate that one of the questions I find myself asking is whether this theme comes out in this film because integrity is more of an Iranian value than a Western or American value we see out of Hollywood. Where other films seem to question or challenge the idea of right and wrong, this film demonstrates the way dishonesty destroys human relations with one another, as well people as individuals.

My favorite character in this film is Termah, because at eleven years old she possesses an innocents and black-and-white perspective that no one else seems to have. Even the other young character in this film, the four year old, Someyeh (the care-takers daughter) early on tells her mother she will keep a secret from her father regarding a potential sin her mother has committed.

Yet, Termah is the silent observer in this film, who is pained by the presence of dishonesty she see's particularly when she catches her own father in what he has written off as a small lie that could mean the difference between freedom and a prison sentence. It is Termah who's innocence is does not seem naive but instead beautiful. Yet, it is not longer after this scene that Termah is caught in this similar web, and the challenge she faces is heart breaking.

I love this theme of honesty and integrity, and not only wish that it could have such a sensitive and artful portrayal in western cinema, but also wish that there was a similar sensitivity in real life. 

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