From the land of Majid Majidi, Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Jafar Panahi, Asghar Farhadi is the first Iranian to win the academy awards. I don't think the
academy awards is the ultimate pinnacle of glory for a filmmaker. However, Farhadi's 'A Separation' (which won the award for the best foreign film) is easily among my best movies of 2011. As Tarkovsky points out in his masterpiece, Sculpting in time, a movie is a collection of three-dimensional moving images chiselled in space and time from life. Farhadi's works echo this guideline. Five of his feature films have been released till-date.
Like most of his predecessors from Iran, Farhadi is a minimalist when it comes to his work. For example, most of the shots in A Separation, take place inside the house. The subject at hand is simple - the misunderstanding between a man and his wife (or a woman and her husband), and their daughter caught in between the two. The effectiveness with which the tension is built-up, at times makes it unbearable for the viewer. One feels like getting into the movie and talking to the characters to avoid the mess that they are about to get into - to give you idea of the rapport that the director is able to build, with the audience.
Under the censorship prevailing in Iran, to be able to make movies with such impact is an achievement in itself. There is no propaganda, there is no 'forcing the idea upon the viewer' nor there is a judgement being passed by the filmmaker on the characters or their behavior. They are shown just as they are, in real life or the imagination of the filmmaker. It is astonishing how such neutrality can be practised in building a character. Moreover, few comments are passed on the restrictions imposed by religion, whereas it is apparent that the characters are haunted by guilt and similar feelings evoked by religion.
About Elly (2009) is a kind of prequel to A Separation as the director himself has suggested in one of the interviews. A group of friends travel to a beach with their children's teacher Elly, where tragedy befalls the group. It won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 59th Berlin film festival. It features Golshifteh Farahani, who the western audiences might be familiar with. Here again, the limitations(and possibilities) of language are portrayed effectively.
Fireworks Wednesday was released in 2006. Here you can see the developing maturity of the director. The audience is kept guessing about the next moves of the characters. And one might feel relieved at one of the characters getting away unhurt (mentally). The strained relationship between a couple is the central theme of the movie. The various other characters play their part in building and bringing down the tension between the couple. One can fairly assume that in A Separation, the director has perfected his art by focusing on the nuances of the plot and characters in Fireworks Wednesday and About Elly.
Dancing in the Dust (2003) is his first work. This might not be his best, but unlike his other movies, there are elements of explicit social commentary in the work. The despair surrounding human existence is the theme. Many things are left unsaid, engaging the audience with the characters in the movie in a fashion rarely seen these days (Haneke does this beautifully).
Farhadi's latest work which is under production has Bérénice Bejo as the lead.
For me, Farhadi is a prominent figure in world cinema, because he tries to address the basic communication gap between man and woman, or in general between men, and I believe most of the masterpieces in art are attempts to do exactly just that - to get across the burning idea within yourself to atleast one other person.