Friday, 2 March 2012

Iran is not Japan

It’s premature to say ‘the best movie at this year’s Borderlines is…’, but I’m pretty sure that A Separation will be hard to beat. A middle class Iranian couple are embroiled in an acrimonious separation, which neither of them wants. The practical and emotional fallout of this draws in family members, colleagues and a religious working class family drafted in to look after an Alzheimer’s father. Each of the characters is forced into taking sides and to make a series of moral choices where telling the truth may have consequences that they cannot morally accept. Their lives become agonisingly entangled – a process not helped by the frequent intervention of the Iranian judiciary, who are portrayed as surprisingly liberal but hopelessly overwhelmed. The religious state is invisible but ever present. As a friend of mine heard at a meeting recently ‘there’s an elephant in the room and we need to get it on the table’.
It reminded me of Still Walking (Borderlines 2010). The films are united by the same tangled relationships, uncertainties and ambiguity, but divided by cultural differences so profound that the comparison is at best a bit odd. In the Japanese film almost everything is unspoken; emotion and feelings are portrayed by a barely raised eyebrow, an oblique phrase, a moment of silence. In the Iranian film, all is on the surface. Nothing that could be said is left unsaid.
We are often told that ‘getting it out in the open’ is a good thing. After watching A Separation, I’m not so sure.

1 comment:

Jonathan Amyas said...

Impressive review and faithful to my experience of 'A Separation'. Jonathan