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A Separation (2011) Review: Moral and Legal Struggles!

A Separation minimalist poster, two empty court chairs.

In “A Separation,” a married couple’s decision to separate sets off a series of events that force them to confront complex moral and legal dilemmas in contemporary Iran.

The Opening Sequence: Collapsing the Fourth Wall

Nader and Simin argue while looking at the camera in the opening sequence. Thus, we witness the collapse of the fourth wall. Judge, it’s us now. The director forces the audience to make a decision. Which side is right in the chain of events that will unfold from now on? This question will continue to be questioned throughout the movie by the audience, who has now assumed the role of a judge.

Leila Hatami as Simin and Peyman Moadi as Nader engage in a heated argument about leaving in the courtroom, in the opening scene of the movie "Jodaeiye Nader az Simin."

The cinematography of “A Separation” remains consistent in its use of a shaky camera from the opening scene, effectively capturing the visual expression of a relationship on the brink of collapse. The central conflict revolves around Simin’s desire for a divorce, while Nader remains unreconciled. Simin describes her wife as a kind person without any negative traits and proposes withdrawing the divorce case if they leave the country together. However, Nader’s responsibilities as a caretaker for his ailing father with Alzheimer’s prevent him from leaving.

The following dialogue between them during the trial is quite interesting:

Simin: He doesn’t even know who you are.

Nader: He does not know me but I know that he is my father.

Simin, a resolute and modern teacher who opposes the conservative mullah regime in Iran, is forced to relocate her possessions to her mother’s home during her divorce proceedings. Among the transported items is a piano, which serves as a visual representation of Simin’s secular and European identity.

One of the film’s moral quandaries arises when a team of shippers agrees to transport the belongings to a specific floor, but mistakenly believes that the ground floor is the first floor. This prompts the question of whether the shippers are entitled to additional compensation for carrying an extra floor of cargo beyond what was initially agreed upon. Both sides present compelling arguments, highlighting the complexities of the situation. Director Asghar Farhadi effectively weaves in the disappearance of a sum of money, which adds further nuance to the moral ambiguity of the characters. It is possible that neither Raziye nor Simin is entirely without fault in this scenario, underscoring the intricate and multi-layered nature of the film’s themes.

Raising a Child with Principles: Dilemmas in Parenting

Raising a child with principles… Her parents want to raise such a child.

According to her own worldview, Simin wants and supports her daughter to study abroad. Nader, on the other hand, is a conservative father, so he does not favor his daughter’s education abroad. Iran has difficult political conditions, it is aware of it. However, he still prioritizes raising her daughter as an individual who strives for her country.

Naders’s uncompromising personality is also visible to his daughter when she teaches her lessons at school. “Wrong is wrong. The teacher may not know it correctly, even if it will break your score, you write the correct one.” output is an example. In another instance of Nader’s character, we see that he wants to raise his daughter with strong principles. For example, he asks her to take back the tip she left at a gas station and gives it back to her as pocket money. This behavior indicates his desire to create a strong female role model.

Raziye, an elderly caregiver, grapples with a moral quandary when she questions the permissibility of washing an elderly Alzheimer’s patient who is not related to her. This sensitive issue leads to her eventual resignation from her job.

Despite her reservations, Raziye is compelled to continue working due to certain circumstances. When she is away from the house, Nader discovers that she is not present and his father has fallen to the ground with the oxygen tube removed and hands tied.

Subsequently, it is revealed that Raziye had saved Nader’s father from a potentially fatal traffic incident. Despite being pregnant, she had risked her life by throwing herself in front of the car. Moreover, fearing that Nader’s father might wander out of the house, Raziye had tied his hands and locked the door before leaving to visit a doctor to check if she had had a miscarriage.

When Raziye returns home, Nader angrily says that he found his father about to die and accuses him of stealing. Although Raziye swears, she cannot convince him that he is not a thief. (The oath he takes in this scene creates the confidence of swearing on the Quran in the finale.)

Leila Hatami as Simin in the movie "Jodaeiye Nader az Simin" appears worried at the forefront. Peyman Moadi as Nader stands slightly nervous behind her.

As a result of their argument, Nader pushes Raziye and the possibility of miscarriage comes to the fore again. If Raziye had not gone to the doctor, she would have lost the baby. If Nader had come home a little later, he might have lost his father. Who is right?

In the ensuing argument, Nader pushes Raziye, putting her pregnancy at risk again. As it turns out, Raziye miscarries as a result of the blow she received. Did she have a miscarriage because of a fight between them, because her husband beat her, or because she got hit by a car? The answers to these questions are mysterious until the finale of the movie. The story begins to unfold from here.

Moral Dilemmas and Accusations of Murder

Nader is accused of murder, Raziye is charged with attempted murder.

To avoid punishment, Nader must lie. If he wants the girl, Nader will tell the truth he has kept secret. Faced with the difficulty of the divorce process, Termeh takes on a more serious moral responsibility this time. The situation has become serious, and Simin is motivated to give blood money to save her family. Her daughter’s safety is her top priority, and this is why she wants to go abroad. Through this discussion, we see that Simin prefers a quieter life. On the other hand, if the blood money is paid, he will have admitted his guilt. However, his principled attitude pushes him to investigate the reality of the event. He wants to convince his daughter and wife that he can be innocent in this matter as well.

Should we reveal the truth about something that is certain to have negative consequences?

Maybe if she had told her husband that she was an elderly caregiver, her husband would never have allowed her to work and would not have beaten his wife. That way, she wouldn’t have had a miscarriage and could have given birth to the baby. Maybe Raziye should have explained to Nader why she needed to leave the house, which could have prevented the argument and saved the baby’s life.

Nader wants it to be certain that he caused Raziye’s miscarriage. If Raziye swears by the Qur’an, she will give her blood money. He calls Nader’s daughter and wife there before the oath. Because in the war of truth given by Nader; more than just easing one’s own conscience, there is also the need to regain your dignity.

Unraveling the Story

Leila Hatami as Simin and Peyman Moadi as Nader in the final scene of the movie "Jodaeiye Nader az Simin." Simin is seen standing behind a glass door, while Nader sits across from her.

The story, in which white lies cause deep wounds, is dragged to an ambiguous finale.

Regardless of the reason, Raziye’s baby and Nader’s father died. In the final scene, Nader, Simin and Termeh are dressed in black. The black clothes they wear show that Nader has lost his father. Death has overcome the problem of going abroad. A bigger problem remains: a frayed relationship.

In the opening sequence, they were sitting next to each other as they argued about divorce. But now they are in the diagonal seats.

The credits flow, the music enters; An excited wait remains behind the sad and dejected eyes…

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Last modified: September 24, 2023