Monday, April 23, 2012

A Separation - Movie Review

Is 'A Separation' the modern day Rashomon?  is the first question that came to my mind.

Every couple of years there comes a movie that involves us beyond the screen. A few years back, it was The Reader and this year, 'A Separation' surpasses it in terms of it's simplicity of presentation along with depth of emotion.

The movie commences with a couple, Simin and Nader, in a divorce court. The reason for the divorce is  simple - Simin wants to move out of Iran for better prospects for their 12 year old daughter, Termeh.  Nader cannot leave the country since he is the sole care-taker of his Alzheimer-stricken father. The divorce is denied but Simin separates to live in her mother's house. A house-help, Razieh, is employed to look after the demented father during  the day. Razieh, along with her 4 year old daughter, struggles with the burden of managing  the household chores as well as the care of a forgetful and sick old man. She is caught between her religious beliefs (of a woman taking care of a man with no chaperone around) and the need to make ends meet.

At this point the movie could have easily become predictable - by either projecting the plight of Iran and why Simin wants to flee the country, or by focusing on religious beliefs and the way it affects common people. But 'A Separation' does neither. Instead it's sole focus is the intricacies of people's lives. We are drawn into the plight of Razieh that we forget about her religion but sympathize with her situation.

One day Nader and Termeh come home to see the old man fallen off the bed and his hands tied. This infuriates Nader, who wonders along with the audience where Razieh disappeared.
A distraught Razieh returns after some time and tries to explain that she only tied the old man to prevent him from wandering. A furious Nader pushes Razieh out of his house.What follows is a complaint by Razieh's husband against Nader for causing a miscarriage.

We feel deeply sympathetic to all characters. Nader is an amazing son and a fine father. We sense this when Nader, back from work, strikes a fine balance between looking after his father as well as his daughter.
Surely he must be on the right. But again, our heart reaches out to Razieh - pregnant and a good-for-nothing husband forcing her to take up a tiring job. Some of us might be angry with Simin for leaving her family and moving to her mother's house. We also weigh the options just like Termeh does. Like the self-righteousness of a 12 year old, she wants to support whoever is right.

Surprisingly, the judge is neither corrupt nor prejudiced.The questions asked by the judge not only confuse the 12 year old daughter but also the audience.Did Nader know that Razieh was pregnant? Where did Razieh disappear after tying the father?What caused the miscarriage?

If you peel the different layers of this intrinsic story, the heart of movie is the confusion between what is right and wrong? What does one do in a state of helplessness ? Does a parent teach a child what is right or what is convenient?  'A Separation' tries to balance it all as if it were an apple on the tip of the pencil.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Movies and books in march 2012

  1. Boys don't cry - I was fooled at some point about Hillary Swank being born 'inter-sexed' but realizing that she is a woman made me sad. It also made me sad because of the stupidity of her character. I know it takes courage to fight an identity crisis especially a sexual one, but when met with barbaric boys, the woman in you should shout 'Run from danger'. At-least that is what I do!
  2. Blue Valentine - I can't gush enough about Ryan Gosling. Add Michelle Williams to this eclectic mix and we have this amazingly beautiful sad story of a couple gone awry.
  3. Howard's End (Abandoned) - Would blame it on the timing - when sleep beckons me, this is not the movie I should be watching.
  4. Kahani - Nothing more to add to my review.
  5. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? - Yes, it is horrifying. Yes, Betty Davis makes a horrific villain. Yes, it reminded me of Rosemary's baby. But, there were points of time when it defied logic. I like a good movie to have all loose ends neatly tied.
  6. Barefoot in the park -  My introduction to Niel Simon. Fun but a little over the top movie-shot- like-a-play(I do like them when done well like Rope but this was a whole different story).I like Robert Redford but he was the wrong choice for the husband. And I can't stop drooling over the dresses of Jane Fonda. I think I would like to see more of her.

 7. Young Adult  - Did not live up to it's review. Could have given it a miss.   
 8. A Separation (Iranian movie) - Totally worthy of the Oscar it won. I would like to write a full review of it at some point. This movie does an amazing job of portraying the subtle emotions of a family that is undergoing change in present day Iran. 
 9. Detective Dee and the mystery of the phantom flame (Chinese)  - Fun and colorful. I think it would have been a grand viewing on the big screen but I enjoyed watching the mystery unfold. Set in 618 AD, the first Empress of China orders the investigation of men exploding in flames before her coronation.It is a good DVD watch on a boring Friday night.


1.Bossy Pants - Tina Fey - Marks my foray into the world electronic readers. It introduced me to the world of 'Improvise' and definitely had a few good laughs.
2. The Hunger Games -  Suzanne Collins - A good story with a fast moving plot. I don't think I would be reading the other two books of the trilogy but will look forward to the movies.
3. Biography of Steve Jobs (Abandoned)- Maybe because I am not the biggest Apple fan on earth(and they are not missing me anyways). Also the entire India trip reeked of 'West finds India mystical' theme, that I find mildly annoying.

Audio Book :

The Coral Thief - Rebecca Scott

I used to consider those who say 'I heard the audio book' as not reading the book, which I still say, by the way. But my first brush with this audio book was good. I don't know if I would bury myself in voices instead of the pages, but they do make good companions on a long and lonely road trip.