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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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