A Separation

I’d like to recommend “A Separation,” an Academy Award 2011 movie made in Iran. The film is not violent but it is extremely intense. It’s about a quarreling husband and wife, living an urban, car-driving, apartment-dwelling life. Children’s school examinations and the care of an Alzheimer’s-afflicted parent are the crucial issues–not Israel or, in fact, any kind of political or religious ideology.

On one level, this is a movie about how the dissolution of a marriage affects people–regular, fundamentally decent people. At a deeper level it’s about willfulness and stubbornness, which means it speaks to all of us, whatever our circumstances. I won’t give away the ending, which is a surprise that sticks in your mind.

While the movie is not particularly religious, it’s interesting in depicting an Islamic society. Just as is the case in America, religion touches people in many very ordinary ways. The devout and the non-devout act quite differently in some ways, and in others are just the same. It’s not a pro-Islamic movie. I would say, however, that it reflects a fundamentally Islamic view of family and marriage, perhaps because of the makers’ convictions, and perhaps simply because that is what the artists had to work with in making an Iranian picture.

From what I can tell, Islam is a religion profoundly in crisis, trapped in a dead-end. Nevertheless, the Islam behind this film is deeply humane, and its convictions about humanity are both strongly felt and relevant to all people. It spoke to me.

Learning comes from many sources, including some that we find surprising. That is one more reason to take care not to demonize others.

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7 Responses to “A Separation”

  1. Karen Kalinski Says:

    I always appreciate your sensible thoughtful careful humane even-handed thoughts. Are you going to do a blog on Obama vs Romney?

    • timstafford Says:

      Thanks, Karen!

      Probably not. There are so many people weighing in on the election, and I don’t think I have anything original to add.

  2. Bill Reichert Says:

    “That is one more reason to take care not to demonize others.”

    The problem is, they have already demonized us..

  3. Baddu Says:

    What you see in this work of art is not ‘Islam’ but Persian culture, which is an organic synthesis between Zoroaster traditions and an adapted version of Islam. This is light years away from ‘Islam’ as presented by Saudi Arabia.

    • timstafford Says:

      Fair enough, there is more than one version of Islam, some we might like better than others. I don’t think that invalidates my comment.

      • Baddu Says:

        Certainly not. You have made two comments in your review which are both noteworthy.
        – Islam is a religion profoundly in crisis, trapped in a dead- end.
        – The Islam behind this film is deeply humane.

        Both are deeply shap observations about Islam.
        The latter one you can hardly consider to be in crisis or to have reached a dead-end; I have referred to it as Persian Culture. In the movie you see examples of this tradition when Nader pleads with the magistrate not to hold his adversary,Hodjat, in contempt of the court. Or when Nader decides not pursue his complaint against Razieh, because this entails discomforting his helpless father, who is held in high respect in spite of his dementia: ‘But I do know he is my father!’
        The former Islam which is in crisis and is facing a dead-end is the Wahhabi Islam of Saudi Arabia and their alies like Qatar and other tribal Arabs. This Islam would be long dead, were it not fueled by oil money and NATO support. The
        Jihadist warriors of this ‘Islam’ are praised as heroes by Senator McCain and he gets annoyed when General Mattis cals them AlQaeda and part of the Free Syran Army.
        It was not my intention to politicize this issue, but one thing led to another, sorry!

      • timstafford Says:

        A profoundly interesting history of this form of Islam is found in God’s Terrorists.

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