CINÉMONDAYS WITH HARDIK
Dir. Asghar Farhadi
Nader wants to continue taking care of his father who suffers from Alzheimer’s, and wife Simin wants out; she wants a better future for their daughter abroad. In Asghar Farhadi’s Iranian masterpiece, A Separation, these choices entail choices of other important characters surrounding their lives. And just like us in real life, they are faced with the economy of empathy. Like us, they are blindly selective in their empathy expenses.
We have by now learnt from watching movies and shows that it is safe for us to slip our feet into shoes that fit well. We all have empathized with Jack from Titanic because we could readily put ourselves in his “poor” shoes. We empathized with Walter White (Breaking Bad) and his meth-business/family situation because we know his intentions were good because we believe we mean well too. We are able to be selective where to spend our empathy: in that underdog, or that good-girl-gone-bad, or the hooker with a heart of gold, when it suits us.
We are guilty, I admit it. I want to defend us here and say it is how stories have always been presented –– we always had an option to “us” and “them” its characters.
But now imagine not being allotted that one “us” character in whose shoes you see your feet fitting. Imagine: walking in many important characters’ shoes, never stopping to care for them and where they are coming from, that too simultaneously. A Separation does just that. And I’m afraid after having watched this film, I will never be nearly satisfied with other films’ presentation of empathy.
Watching A Separation is an experience we so desperately need today –– empathy is that one power we will never run out of, the whole point of being humans, really –– to make sense of what we are in for, to realize that we all are sharing the same human experience.
I am not saying we need to share the same opinions, but we are a big world, we can’t keep one hero or antihero at the center of it and pretend everyone else is conspiring against us.
~ Hardik Yadav