Blood Money: Truthful Lies in “A Separation”

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The Iranian writer and director Asghar Farhadi has been in recent news due to the current United States administration ruling on banning all entries into the country from Iran, along with six other heavily Muslim countries as well.  Farhadi issued a statement expressing his sadness and anger with the situation that he will not be able to even attend the Academy Awards that has nominated his latest film “The Salesman” for best foreign film.  As an artist who strives to convey to audiences the nuances and universal themes his culture has with the world, this must be a very hard pill to swallow.

In 2012, director Farhadi won the Academy Award for his superb drama “A Separation” much to the delight of cinema artists around the world.  Iran, one of the oldest known civilizations still in existence has suffered great political upheaval this past century that has isolated the country unnecessarily.  Misunderstandings about Iran’s religious practices, laws, and sociopolitical parameters  have lead to great ignorance of this culture followed by violence.  It is a credit to its artists that we are able to glimpse inside this isolated land and find people much like you and I yearning for happiness and a better life.

The film presents a couple in the midst of a divorce proceeding, although the husband refuses to consent to.  In Iran, it is still the man who rules over the household and his wife, but we sense that ancient hierarchy is crumbling.  When they separate, an incident with the man’s elderly father (who suffers from dementia) with a housekeeper he hires sets in motion a court case in which all the elements of truth, justice, and society norms are put into play.  It is fascinating to watch the court proceedings in which a judge is the final authority; no lawyers are present.  Only the plaintiffs involved are present to make their case known.  The film presents the male/female relationship rules that govern most marriages in Iran.  There is also the religious rules, such as a woman should never see another man undressed in any manner; even with his shirt off.  Religious teachings still govern much of their human behavior, though this film denotes that even this is fading because of Western influences.  The blood money that is demanded from a couple who lost their child is defined as a monetary amount in compensation for that death.  The blood money in this story hinges upon a hidden truth which unravels before our very eyes in one explosive scene.

There are many reasons to see this film, but above all it is a story of grace, dignity, and how the perception of truth is never reliable.  The drama is engrossing while letting the viewer see the universality of these people.  One of the important things about international cinema can be the ability to empathize and learn about cultures foreign to our senses.  It can certainly lead to a much better understanding of the world around us.  Fear seems to be the consistent enemy when faced with a different culture.  That fear is wiped out when an artist such as Farhadi can helm a story that teaches, as well as entertains.  The ending, without giving anything away, perfectly leaves open to the viewer a singular choice that will determine someone’s happiness.  Without a doubt, the film is powerful in its treatment of the subject matter with performances which are note perfect.

Farhadi’s newest “The Salesman” opens here soon and should be on everyone’s list of must sees.  Not because of the political climate today, but because based on “A Separation”, this is an artist to be excited about and talked about.  Currently, “A Separation” can be streamed on FilmStruck.

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(director Asghar Farhadi 2012)

“A Separation”  written and directed by Asghar Farhadi

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