Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Asghar Farhadi's The Past

In this new movie by Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, an Iranian man, Ahmad, returns to Paris to formalize his divorce from his French wife, Marie, so that she can marry her new boyfriend, Samir. We never learn why Ahmad & Marie's marriage broke up, but Marie's domestic life is stressful & chaotic, & her new marriage will combine children from both partners. Without intending to, Ahmad triggers a series of unsettling revelations, leading to increasingly dramatic confrontations. I had to keep reframing the characters’ relationships, & the movie constantly challenged my judgments. Though the film is over 2 hours long & nearly plotless, it is taut & emotionally tense. At times it is like watching a play. Mr. Farhadi has steely clear vision, & there is probably nothing on screen that isn't precisely intended. The cast is attractive & intelligent. A protracted moment during which the 2 men find themselves alone with nothing to say to one another is both funny & exceedingly uncomfortable. The film's children are believable & powerfully depicted. A showdown between Samir & his 5-year-old son in the Paris Metro is painfully distressing to witness.

The movie is mostly in French, though, interestingly, the press materials indicate that Mr. Farhadi does not speak French & that Ali Mosaffa, the Iranian actor playing Ahmad, had to come up to speed in French within a few a weeks. The Past opens in San Francisco on December 27th & then in other Bay Area locations in the following weeks.

§ Le passé (The Past) (2013)
France, 130 minutes
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Starring Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim and Ali Mosaffa


Immanuel Gilen said...

I loved this movie. Surprised it didn't get an Oscar nod. Really impressive that Mr Mosaffa did not know French before shooting the film...

The director not knowing the language is a bit odd, too. It reminds me of that scene in Lost in Translation where a translator condenses the detailed instructions of the director to "look at camera, please".

Axel Feldheim said...

I like the way the movie keeps giving you new information that makes you rethink what is going on. Farhadi got an Oscar in 2012 already, so perhaps that's why he didn't make the running this year. I find it hard to imagine how he got along without knowing French too. In an interview, Ali Mosaffa says he got a lot of help from the French-speaking actors once he got to Paris.