English Title: The Past
Original Title: Le passé
Country: France, Italy
Language: French, Persian
Genre: Drama, Mystery
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Writers: Asghar Farhadi, Massoumeh Lahidji
Music: Evgueni Galperine, Youli Galperine
Cinematography: Mahmoud Kalari
Since A SEPARATION (2011) has been my runner-up film of 2011 hitherto, I couldn’t be more expectant to Farhadi’s follow-up THE PAST. Relocating the milieu to France and signing up more internationally bankable names (Bejo replaced Marion Cotillard due to the latter’s schedule conflict), Farhadi has formulated a more universally relevant story to buttress his narrative journey, thus it transpires to be an astute move and the film is dedicatedly intriguing and unwaveringly laying stress on the fatigued moral yardstick gauging by modern standards.
Similar to A SEPARATION, this film is also triggered by a divorce, Ahmad (Mosaffa), an Iranian man, goes back to France after four years to finalize the divorce procedure with his ex-wife Marie (Bejo), who is expecting to marry Samir (Rahim). During this period, Ahmad has to live under the same roof with Marie and Rahim, with two daughters Luci (Burlet) and Léa (Jestin) from Marie’s first marriage, and Samir’s son Fouad (Aguis). In order to suss out Luci’s hostility towards the remarriage, a suicidal incident which has caused Samir’s wife in a coma surfaces up and jeopardizes the lives of those who are involved.
Barren with music (not until the end credits roll), Farhadi proves again he is a maestro of singling out precise emotive nuances from domestic entanglements, minutely digs in the roots of the problems, teases out the best renditions from a first-rate cast and maximumly bypasses any sappy platitude which is concomitant with the drama set-up. DP Mahmoud Kalari’s viewfinder trawls though the thickening plots with a steadier hand than in A SEPARATION, the transcendent ending shot single-handedly elevates the movie’s soured stalemate to a plaintive eulogy to love’s most instinct primitive force.
The performance is the film’s strongest suit, Bejo deservingly won Best Actress in Cannes this year and her restrained volatility is awards-worthy. Mosaffa (the husband of actress Leila Hatami and a booming director himself) mostly appears as audience’s on-screen proxy, leads us to unearth the familiar “what had happened” scenario, a busybody and a wannabe-hero in the mess. But the most admirable player here is Rahim, who is mostly composed and sidelined in the first half of the movie, but when the crunch approaching, he can be radiantly seething with ire and guilt, and evinces a scarred psyche beyond redemption.
Burlet (resembles a young Cotillard) and Aguis are glittering discoveries from the movie, Ouazani is pitch perfect in a limited but key role which alters the perception of the entire myth. Farhadi leaves many loose ends here, there is little dwelling on Ahmed’s past, and the truth about the suicide will be buried forever with the comatose woman, but it is a highly accomplished woe of tale, relatable high and low, a gratifying if not necessarily commensurate follow-up of A SEPARATION, still, it is a solid brick to be added onto Farhadi’s august wall of fame!