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.

It’s a foot perfect realisation of Strindberg’s famous wish to see a 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. A Separation strongly suggests that Asghar Farhadi has confidently taken up that mantle.

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