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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

A Separation

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

“A Separation” won an Oscar for Best Picture in a Foreign Language in February. Director Asghar Farhadi has the district honor of being the first Iranian filmmaker to ever receive an Oscar.
 
In modern day Tehran, the capitol if Iran, Nadir and Simin are in court to make Simin’s request for a separation and divorce final (for a complete listing of the cast please see the Internet Movie Database http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1832382).  The judge is patient and asks easy questions but it is obvious that the couple loves each other and is reluctant to move forward.
 
Simin explains that they filed for  an exit visa years before and when it finally came they had more than 100 days to act on it; but time is running out. Simin says there is no future for them in Iran and the judge becomes a little hostile. Nadir explains that he cannot leave because his father has Alzhiemer’s and needs his son to care for him. Simin and Nadir have an eleven year-old daughter as well. So either Simin will have to leave the country on her own, hopefully with her daughter, Termeh, or the whole family stays.
 
The judge decides there is not enough cause for a divorce. When they arrive home Simin packs her bag and leaves. While it seems like she is leaving for good, she moves back into her parents’ home. Termeh stays with her father and grandfather.
 
Simin, however, through a friend, finds a woman, Raziah, to care for the elderly man. Raziah is very observant but she has not told her husband she is working for one man and caring for another all day. She vacillates between coming to work and letting her husband have the job. When the old man soils himself she calls a religious information line  to ask is she is permitted by law to change him; she is given the go-ahead.
 
Nadir meets Raziah’s husband and he seems nice enough and eager. But things get complicated when he does not show up for work. Raziah comes again with her little daughter. When she is not looking the old man slips out to buy a paper. Raziah is terrified and runs to find him.
 
Nadir comes home early one day to find his father tied to the bed but unconscious on the floor. Raziah is nowhere to be found. When she appears Nadir’s anger overcomes him; he accuses her of stealing cash that he has on hand and then he pushes her out of the apartment and closes the door.
 
The situation becomes very complicated by this, relationships and friendships broken forever by lies. When the characters start to parcel out blame, beginning with Termeh, it is laid at Simin’s feet because none of this would have happened if she did not want to leave Iran.
 
The is a movie about not only a separation between man and wife, but between parent and child, between a family and their country, middle class and poor, and a separation blocking communication and understanding on many levels. Raziah’s extreme fear of making a religious mistake is palpable thus there exists a profound separation, a lack of integration, between a faith lived for love and being observant out of fear. The visuals, doors, windows, partitions are seamlessly included to reinforce the real partitions and to symbolize ones we cannot see.
 
The obvious conclusion that the theocratic government of Iran is ultimately to blame for the chaos that develops in this finely crafted and deeply felt film. The film is an analogy for Iran and other totalitarian governments and the story highlights the cracks that such a government creates in a society and culture.
 
How does it end? Do take the time to see it if it is playing in your area or rent it on DVD when it becomes available. This is a movie with a lot of dialogue but not a word is superfluous.

What would you have done if you were Namir and Simin?


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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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