THE PAST: THE REVIEW

Salty Kernel, Andrew Brusentsev, hits up the new film from Asghar Farhadi, the director of the superb Oscar winner “A SEPARATION,” THE PAST releases nationally on February 6th, is rated M and runs for 125mins. Enjoy Andrew’s review below.

Director Asghar Farhadi is for me, at the moment, probably the most interesting and thought provoking director on the planet. We can list out the standard media release crib notes of being not only the first director to win a Best Foreign Language film Oscar for the perfect “A Separation,” and a string of international awards and having this film be not only a critical but commercial success. It would be remiss to dismiss him as simply an Iranian film maker. In fact I would suggest that the territory covered so brilliantly in “A Separation” is the human heart and the day to day trials and tribulations of simply existing with others, this is a universal film maker at the peak of his formidable powers at the moment.

 

The Past, Le Passe, Review, Salty Popcorn, Andrew Brusentsev, Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Asghar Farhadi
Movie Poster from The Past

 

THE PAST, his latest film did not strike as deep a cord with me as his first movie. But that is to do it a disservice. It is another brilliantly directed, acted and crafted drama that puts Farhadi amongst a handful of directors making really challenging work. THE PAST covers similar territory to “A Separation,” but instead of a fracturing family shows us an already fractured family. A family seemingly stuck in time paused at the moment of fracture. A dynamic which encompasses loss, hurt, hidden motives and an inability to deal with all of these plus the slings and arrows of day to day modern life in a rapidly changing world.

Apparently some of Farhadi’s greatest influences spring from the rich vein of stories written by people such as Tennessee Williams and this love affair can be seen in the rich narrative and dialogue he presents. Farhadi does not have any interest in the geopolitical tensions of his homeland rather as he has often said tries to make movies that try to explain the universality and complexities of the human heart.

 

The Past, Le Passe, Review, Salty Popcorn, Andrew Brusentsev, Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Asghar Farhadi
Scene Still from The Past

 

THE PAST does not concern itself with the clash of three distinctive cultures: Iranian, French and Arab, although the minutae of each culture does play a small part in the narrative. But Farhadi quickly strips away the differences and allows the characters to exist without the necessary baggage of cultural identity. The other key theme traversing the movie is that of time itself. Relationships of the past, present and future and how they all intersect, coexist and sometimes even seek to dominate the others.

At the beginning of the narrative we meet Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) who is returning after a four year absence to Paris. He is returning to finalise the divorce from his estranged wife Marie (Berenice Bejo). Whilst married the two lived together with her two children in France. Four years ago after an intense period of unhappiness between the two and a serious bout of depression Ahmad moved back to his homeland.

 

The Past, Le Passe, Review, Salty Popcorn, Andrew Brusentsev, Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Asghar Farhadi
Scene Still from The Past

 

From the outset we can see that there is some unresolved issues between the two. A pause has been put on this “past” and it is interfering with everyone’s present and future. Marie informs Ahmad almost immediately that she will be marrying Samir (Tahar Rahim) who she has been living with following their own the estrangement. Samir has a past of his own, a wife who lies in a coma after a suicide attempt. His inability to let this moment go is interfering with his present and future with Marie.

The matters get even more complicated. Marie has two children of her own. The oldest Lucie (Pauline Burlet) who sees  Ahmad as her father (although her biological father who we do not see lives in Brussels) and Lea (Jeanne Jestin) who also has a deep connection with Ahmad. Into this dynamic is thrown Samir’s young son Fouad (Elyes Aguis) who lives with Marie, Samir and the two girls. Fouad is perhaps the saddest of all. A little boy desperately missing his mother who acts out of anger at his present situation but who really just desperately needs stability and love in his present and future.

 

The Past, Le Passe, Review, Salty Popcorn, Andrew Brusentsev, Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Asghar Farhadi
Scene Still from The Past

 

I do not want to go through and spoil any of the story, it is expertly crafted and perfectly paced. The complex relationships between the six main characters is handled brilliantly and the performances from one and all are exceptional. There are no caricatures or broad brush stroked emotions, it is deeper than that. The moments when storylines and characters intersect is wonderful to behold although much of the territory they cover is heartbreaking and painful.

Farhadi is a masterful artist. His primary skill is that of a dramatist. This movie could quite easily have been a play. This would have done it a disservice as the camera shots and lighting give a beautiful ambiance to the whole thing. The audience’s viewpoint shifts expertly between all six characters and we see how each views the other not only in narrative but in camera placement. There are no “good” and “bad” people here it is far too nuanced for that kind of a treatment.

 

The Past, Le Passe, Review, Salty Popcorn, Andrew Brusentsev, Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Asghar Farhadi
Scene Still from The Past

 

Full credit for this must be given to Mahmoud Kalari, a man who I can safely say is one of the finest cinematographers in the business. He effortlessly shifts the audience from static to panned shots to using handheld methods to achieve a perfect counterpoint to the fine work of the actors and narrative.

I could go on and on about this movie. It really is a superb movie

This is another masterpiece from one of the world great directors.

 

4 and a Half Pops