If 10 years hence there are American tourists on the streets of Tehran and Isfahan and peace reigns in the region, perhaps we will all look back at films such as Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation” and think: That helped. Farhadi’s magnificent opus, nominally a look at divorce but more deeply a meditation on class, truth and honor, won best foreign language film at the Golden Globes on Sunday.
The film, which will open Friday, also took the Golden Bear (and two Silver Bears) at the 61st Berlin Film Festival a year ago and on Wednesday it was announced that it had made the shortlist for Academy Award consideration in the foreign-language category. It has even received praise from Parade magazine, a rare intersection of foreign film with middle American magazine.
At a time when Iran is an enigma to Americans, when it is difficult for foreign journalists to get access there and the country’s leaders seem almost as mercurial as the Kim clan of North Korea, the work of Farhadi and his compatriots in the Iranian cinema is a bracing dose of normality. Dispassionate, ferociously detailed, filled with the seductive small stuff of life, “A Separation” is as moving for what it says about quotidian existence in Tehran as it is for its rigorously constructed narrative. It begins and ends with the hard, ugly, juridical facts of divorce, and in between offers a study in how we know and remember the smallest events of life. By zeroing in on the most minute visual data — pictures on the wall, the architecture of an apartment, the age of a refrigerator — the film forces the viewer to focus on everything else: plot, character, truth and, ultimately, one’s own sense of certainty.