A Separation [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Andy James & Noor Razzak (23rd September 2012).
The Film

The Iranian family drama "A Separation" is a film that is foreign and alien, even as it is a universal tale. It is very much a film set in Iran and that feels like it could only be set in Iran as the Sharia laws hold prominence among the poor and middle class alike. But at the same time, it is also a husband and wife separating with their daughter caught in the middle.

Nader (Peyman Moadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) are a married couple, currently embroiled in an argument deep enough to be going through a divorce. After years of bureaucracy and waiting they have been granted visas to leave Iran and emigrate overseas with their young teenage daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). Simin is all prepared to go but Nader will not leave his Alzheimer sufferer father behind in Tehran; Simin will not leave without Termeh and so the whole family is stuck in limbo. As Simin moves back to her parent’s Nader has to find a new carer for his father while he works, so hires Razieh (Sareh Bayat); a woman poorer but possibly more religious than they. There are difficulties with Razieh – she has her young daughter in tow and has troubles of her own to concern herself with; her husband is in debt and unable to find work.

These are all just people, struggling and just trying to get their way through life. However, everything comes to a head and the lives of all concerned spiral even further into accusation, cross-accusation, lying, bargaining, betrayal and looming imprisonment. What makes the drama real, what gives it life, is the way in which every character reacts in a believable and character-focussed way. Every event, every turning point, is motivated by the characters and their decisions. It is messy; no answers are given or looked for. There are no “good guys” or “bad guys” here; the poorer couple are not thieves and nor are they paragons of virtue while the middle-class couple, though briefly putting their differences aside, are neither reliable nor truly duplicitous.

"A Separation" feels like a brave film, giving a Western audience a glimpse into the life of modern Tehran. In amongst the religious police, protestors, and many others, there are regular people trying to live their lives. It doesn’t aim to politicise events and is almost all but removed from the political realm (as much as is possible in daily life and a story involving the courts), instead finding its focus with these two families.

The chaotic court system and intermingling of law and religion is a foreign concept to me but, due to the strong work done on the characters, "A Separation" is an eminently relatable film.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 mastered in HD 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression codec. Shot on 35mm film Sony delivers a serviceable transfer, grain remains light and manages to retain the filmic look of the film. Detail is equally good, right down to textures, skin tones, blacks are nice and deep. While overall the image seems pretty solid it's never mind-blowing, colors were a tad on boring side, some specks did pop up during the transfer and I notice a couple of instances of edge-enhancement which knocks a few points off.

Audio

Two audio tracks are presented here in the film's original Farsi DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0 surround (48kHz, 24-bit) as well as A French DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0 surround (48kHz, 24-bit) audio. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its original Farsi audio. While I'd have preferred a 5.1 audio track, I don't think there's really a need for one here. The films is almost entirely dialogue-driven. With a heavy front-focus on the sound space, there are some minor flourishes by way of subtle directional sounds and the film's score, which really adds to the dramatic moments of the film. The heated exchanges are the heart of the film and the audio brings that out fairly well without overdoing it.
Optional subtitles are included in English and French.

Extras

Sony Pictures Classics have released this Oscar winning film with a few supplements, they include an audio commentary, a couple of interviews, the film's original theatrical trailer and a collection of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

Forst up is the feature-length screen-specific audio commentary by director Asghar Farhadi. This track is presented in the director's native language of Farsi and features English subtitles. Structured much like every decent commentary, Farhadi manages to capture the listener with his comments on the film's development, the complexity of the directing and performances, he also sheds light in his techniques and style. Furthermore he delves into the production process, filming locations and challenges faced while filming among other things. It's a solid track worth listening to.

"Birth of a Director" is an interview with director Asghar Farhadi (480p) which runs for 7 minutes 53 seconds, also in Farsi with English subtitles. This clip sees the film's director commenting on his career, working on television and his transition into directing and films. The film's success is also touched on.

"An Evening with Asghar Farhadi" (1080p) is another interview that runs for 30 minutes 42 seconds, and is a much meatier clip than the previous and features the director at a Q&A moderated by Andrea Grossman with translation provided by Dorna Khazeni.

The film's original theatrical trailer runs for 2 minutes 3 seconds.

Rounding out the extras are a collection of bonus trailers (1080p) for:

- "Sony Blu-ray" spot which runs for 2 minutes 26 seconds.
- "Where Do We Go Now?" which runs for 2 minutes 16 seconds.
- "Darling Companion" which runs for 2 minutes 27 seconds.
- "Damsels in Distress" which runs for 2 minutes 22 seconds.
- "Hysteria" which runs for 1 minute 46 seconds.
- "In The Land of Blood and Honey" which runs for 2 minutes 38 seconds.

Overall

The film review was originally published on the blog Rockets and Robots are Go! by Andy James. The A/V and supplements were reviewed by Noor Razzak.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: B Extras: B Overall: B+

 


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