The Past Review

Posted 10 years ago by myetvmedia

‘The Past’ by Iranian Director Asghar Farhadi Drama/Foreign Film

Award winning filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, delivers another sensitive expose of failed relationships. Farhadi’s ‘A Separation’, winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, focused on marital strife, the separation and subsequent divorce between a husband and wife. In ‘The Past’, Farhadi shifts his focus along the timeline of a failed marriage, examining the complications of couple’s relationship five years after their separation. The film starts 5 years after Marie (Bérénice Bejo) and Ahmad’s (Ali Mosaffa) separation, at a point where they must come together to finalize their divorce so that one of them can remarry.

Bérénice Bejo who starred in the award winning, black and white, silent movie ‘The Artist’, stars as Marie, the mother of two, who is about to embark on her third marriage. This film opens as Ahmad disembarks from his plane, arriving in France from Iran for the first time since his separation five years ago. Initially it is unclear the nature of the relationship between these two estranged ex lovers. They appear familiar, falling into what feels like a well trodden dynamic. Marie is clearly very nervous and full of anticipation, while waiting at the airport. Soon the nature of the visit is revealed, and little by little the many complexities, history, and emotional baggage between the two start to surface.

We are then confronted with the many irrational compulsions and desires of the human psyche. Marie has chosen not to book Ahmad a hotel, instead deciding to have him stay at her home with their son and her new fiancé. The motivation for this is convoluted, however, Marie’s desire for her ex husband to continue to play the role of father and his desire to play the role of husband, are very apparent. Marie’s teenage daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet), has been acting out. Ahmad, while not her biological father, is the only father figure she is on good terms with, and Marie asks him to speak with her during his visit. Once at the house Ahmad is quick to assume his former role as father and husband, fixing clogged drains, cooking meals and helping with the children.

Tension mounts when the much younger Said (Tahar Rahim, A Prophet), returns to the house to find Ahmad settled in and making himself very much a vital part of the family activities. Said is clearly uncomfortable with Ahmad impinging on his territory. He sees himself as the ‘man of the house’ and does not welcome Ahmad’s presence however well meaning his intentions are. As the film progresses, more of the intimate complexities of each relationship is revealed and the story becomes more intricate.

While The Past deals with similar subject matter as A Separation, it takes the exploration of failed relationships deeper, examining the ripple effect they have on people both inside and outside the relationship. The Past is a captivating expansion on the themes Farhadi begun exploring in his last film. The performances are stellar— Bérénice Bejo won Best Actress for her performance in The Past at the Cannes Film Festival. There are many unexpected plot twists and riveting revelations about the intertwined and intimate nature of the lives of this family which Farhadi masterfully peels away.

The Past screened at TIFF 2013 in Toronto. Toronto International Film Festival.

Astrid Handling

Click here for our guide, Essential TIFF 2013: What to See.

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