Monday, February 6, 2012

A Separation

A Separation
seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY

My father maintained his faculties throughout the final years of his life, so I never got to know what it would be like to see him deteriorate mentally as well as physically. While I wouldn't necessarily call him an intellectual, he always kept his mind engaged and sharp for as long as I knew him, therefore I could never imagine him suffering the way the protagonist's father in A Separation does: afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, spending his life in a haze of lost memory, punctuated by brief moments of lucidity.

We had a number of different home attendants taking care of my father during the day, some of whom I liked, some I didn't. Still, they knew their job, and they knew their responsibilities, and they carried them out professionally. My father always did his best to be friendly with these women. He was a natural conversationalist, and he seemed to genuinely enjoy learning about their lives. He probably also knew that he could set them at ease this way, too - after all, it can't be easy attending to the physical needs of a stranger unable to do so on his own.

This is all a build-up to my point: I know exactly how I'd feel if I seriously thought that any of these women physically endangered my father in any way. None of them did, but when you bring a stranger into your home to take care off someone you love, that's the risk you take. You have to trust that this person will do their job properly, because the alternative is too frightening to contemplate. So when the home attendant in the story makes a grave error in judgment, I was on the protagonist's side completely - but then another twist in the story brings his honesty into question as well, and things get even crazier. 

I was riveted throughout this whole film. Even though I didn't completely understand some of the aspects of Iranian culture and law, I understood just enough to follow along. (Most of what I know about Iran I learned through reading Persepolis.) This movie has the total package - directing, writing and acting. While it's not explicitly political, which one might think given the recent events in Iran (and how certain filmmakers have been treated as a result), it certainly says a lot about Iranian jurisprudence and how it ties to the Islamic religion.

And religion plays a huge factor in the story. I don't pretend to know everything about Islam as it's practiced in Iran, and I don't wanna sit in judgment on it (at least not here), but I did like how it provides obstacles for the characters that could not be easily overcome. It influences the law and how it's applied in this particular story. For some of the characters, they live their lives by it - and for one in particular, their faith ends up being used against them.

A Separation is a tough drama to sit through, but well worth it.

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