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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Separation

Quickly going back to last week's releases, here is something for you art cinema fans to check out: the winner of this year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Considering how draconian Iranian censorship is, it's a true pleasure and something of a very pleasant surprise to see a film from that country as artistically uncompromised as Asghar Farhadi's A Separation clearly is. Brilliantly circumventing the Iranian authorities and creating a truly universal humanist tale in the process, Farhadi's humble morality play - a deserving winner at the 2012 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and a smash critical hit - keeps its head in the game by being staunchly apolitical, concentrating instead on its characters and the way they react to an increasingly morally dubious situation.

Most of the publicity for the film focuses on the dilemma that the film's central couple faces: to leave Iran and provide a better life for their young son or to stay and take care of his Alzheimer-ridden father, but this is barely a launching pad for the far more complex situation that unfolds as a result of their inability to find a compromise to their difficult situation.

A Separation is hardly a plot-driven film, but since the film's publicity has shied away from the intricacies of the couple's situation and the moral mess in which they find themselves, I will leave that for you to find out for yourselves, but for so small a film, it certainly doesn't back away from exploring some fairly weighty issues - not least of which, the multi-faceted nature of the seemingly simple idea of personal responsibility.

This is a film that will make you think, providing no easy answers and offering no pat solutions. Most importantly, the film's intellectual ambitions are easily matched by a strong emotional core and complex, all too human characters. None of the characters in the film are entirely likable, but they are all sympathetic: their motivations and personalities are so expertly drawn that, by film's end, they are all equally deserving of your scorn and your understanding.

The film also boasts some very strong performances, a tight script and thriller-like pacing, but its greatest triumph is just how involving it is on both intellectual and emotional levels. It's a quiet film with an unassuming title that nonetheless has entirely earned the heaps of positive attention it has received (along with winning an Oscar, A Separation is also the best reviewed film of 2011, scoring a damn-near perfect score of 95/100 on Metacritic) and is a must see for anyone with even a passing interest in intelligent, compassionate cinema.

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