Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation”, Comfortably the Film of the Year.

Farhadi's "A Separation"

Iran’s A Separation has just cleaned up at this year’s Asian Film Awards. Before which it had won both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for Best foreign-language film. And last year it similarly triumphed at the Berlin Film Festival where it first surfaced. So there you are then. Sometimes good guys do come first.

This is Farhadi’s fifth film, but his first to break through internationally. Before which he’d worked extensively in theatre. So it’s unsurprising to hear him site Ingmar Bergman as a key influence in the interview he gives on the dvd extras, and to hear him alluding to Scenes From A Marriage from 1973. Impressively, it’s a comparison that A Separation comfortably merits.

According to Jan Fleischer, the National Film School’s script guru in London, a well told story needs to move through five distinct phases: Exposition, where we are introduced to the various elements of the story, Conflict, Crisis, Catastrophe, and finally Catharsis, as the story is brought to a definitive end.

This film illustrates that dynamic progression brilliantly. Indeed, it’s a long time since I’ve seen quite so much plot shoehorned into to a single story.

Practically every scene turns, as yet more twists are revealed and yet another surprise is unveiled. Which might have proved problematic, were it not all handled so very deftly, and in such a subtle, nuanced and all too believable way.

This is what Strindberg meant in his famous introduction to Miss Julie, where he wrote of his longing to see drama performed as if in front of a fourth wall. So seamless and confident are the performances and the direction here that you find yourself perched forever on the edge of your seat, watching as two families descend into all too avoidable tragedy.

Robert McKee maintains that the reason that Bergman is one of the most important film makers of the 20th century is because he was one of its greatest scriptwriters. If A Separation is anything to go by, Asghar Farhadi might very well be heading down a similar path.

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  1. This film in due time shall prove to be a milestone in Persian ‘literature’ and drama. Noting the Western art critics’ accolades, in spite of lack of knowledge of the background and having to follow the story through fast moving, abbreviated subtitles, one can only assume that A Separation shall also prove to be a milestone in world cinema.
    The most outstanding feature is the amount of compaction in content that the film has achieved, a modern necessity considering the fast pace of modern life. If one is familiar with present and past of the Iranian culture and attentive enough to the details, there is enough in this two hour movie to fill volumes of a Thomas Mann novel. This high level of compaction is achieved by relying on the viewer to fill in the details from gestures, clues, metaphors, allegories and knowledge of the Iranian socio-political scene. All these instruments can only be assembled under one roof in the cinema. In theater or or literature you cannot use the exchange of the eye contact between Termeh and the little girl that speaks volumes about the corruption of the grown up world. I only hope that the critics will watch this work of art on DVD and re-review this picture.

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  1. […] of films. A Sep­a­ra­tion for instance, is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent kind of film (reviewed here). And yet here is yet another major film maker qui­etly ques­tion­ing the coun­try he loves and […]

  2. […] you only have to have a look at the won­der­ful A Sep­a­ra­tion (reviewed ear­lier here) or indeed a film like Almodóvar’s All About My Mother, both of which deal with themes and […]

  3. […] A Sep­a­ra­tion was Farhadi’s fifth film, and was qui­etly bril­liant. Unsur­pris­ingly it swept the boards, win­ning the Acad­emy Award for Best For­eign Lan­guage film in 2011 as well a Berlin’s pres­ti­gious Golden Bear, and was reviewed by me ear­lier here. […]

  4. […] mak­ers that also includes Ash­gar Farhadi, whose A Sep­a­ra­tion and About Elly I reviewed here and here, and poor Jafar Panahi, reviewed here who, out­ra­geously, remains impris­oned […]

  5. […] the huge and entirely mer­ited suc­cess of his pre­vi­ous film A Sep­a­ra­tion, reviewed here, The Past was one of the most keenly awaited films at the 2013 Cannes Film Fes­ti­val. But it […]

  6. […] The film only loses it way ever so slightly when we leave her classmates in the final hour to focus on the legal battle that she becomes embroiled in. It’s reasonably obvious where that was all going to end up, and some of those later scenes could comfortably have been pruned. If you want to see how that much story is handled much more frugally, you only have to have a look at the wonderful A Separation (reviewed earlier here) […]

  7. […] Dunkirk, try watching it on your iPhone. Then try watching, say, A Separation – reviewed earlier here. Of course you should never watch a film on anything other than the largest screen with the finest […]

  8. […] to international prominence with his devastating fifth feature A Separation, reviewed by me earlier here. And there are a lot of superficial similarities between that film and the one that was released […]

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