Those crises often have a moral component as well. Certainly in A Hero, with this question of whether the right thing to do is to return or keep the purse, you present Rahim with this moral dilemma. What draws you to explore these kinds of quandaries in your films? These questions between right and wrong and those gray areas in between?
These ethical questions that are in my stories I think are maybe there because of the different perspectives that we see around the crisis. There are differences between those perspectives, and so we as an audience start to ask ourselves which one is the correct one.
As an example, in A Separation, we have the father, and the husband who wants to stay because of his father. Then we have the wife who wants to leave because of her daughter. We ask ourselves which one of these is correct here. It’s basically two narratives about one crisis. When we, as the audience, are looking at this crisis and seeing all different perspectives, the first thing that comes to our mind is choosing between these two. It becomes a moral question. When we put the audience in the situation to judge, I find the first decision they make is more about those moral questions that are being asked.
You, more than almost any other filmmaker in modern cinema, are so good at putting audiences into the shoes of these characters and forcing us to question what we would do in these situations. When you’re writing, do you approach each character as if they are ‘right’, so to speak? Because each one of them, in their own perspective, believes that they’re the ones in the right.
What I do in my films is give each character the time, both from an emotional point of view and from a logical point of view, to be able to explain themselves. In A Hero, when we see the relationship with Rahim and his son, his family, and all the people he has around him, we get emotionally connected to this character. On the other hand, when we see Bahram and his relationship with his daughter, it makes us understand him emotionally as well, and creates this emotional balance between the two. As much as Rahim has time to defend his actions, Bahram also has time to defend his. Therefore, this fight isn’t one between bad and good. It’s a fight between good and good. The audience doesn’t know who we are rooting for to win. We’re rooting for each one, in a way.