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REVIEW: The Past (Asghar Farhadi – 2013)


Oscar winning filmmaker Asghar Farhadi follows his lauded A Separation with an examination of people attempting to look toward the future in spite of past indiscretions. However this isn’t a sunny, inauthentic, proclamation to abandon the events that shaped these characters; Farhadi exhumes the skeletons of the group’s collective history to see how they resonate throughout our lives.

Samir (Tahar Rahim) is asked to return to Paris by Marie (Bérénice Bejo) to attend to their divorce so she can marry Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa). The convergence of past and future relationships buoys the secrets of what brought the new family together and what drove the old family apart.


Farhadi, like his Iranian contemporary Abbas Kiarostami (Close Up), understands the alienating effect of cinema conveying natural temporality. Mainstream cinematic lexicon (especially Hollywood cinema), collapses time to cram large stories into high paced film narrative or slow down key moments of action to convey the feeling of adrenaline. Farhadi forces you to endure the agonising sloppiness of emotionally authentic truth. You’re watching the unfolding seconds of Marie’s (Bejo) hair trigger patience with her teenage daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet) as she stomps and paces around the house smoking waiting for her to arrive; or her attempted aloof of her interactions with Samir from the car ride from the airport to show that she’s evolved from their time together. Finally Marie carries herself with an air of demure sensuality for Ahmad, her future husband and current lover. Farhadi is interested in the quicksand of context. There’s never a sustained period where you can wholly empathise with a singular perspective. It’s a figurative collision of stained individuals and Farhadi just continues to unfold this narrative turduken that gains brevity with each incremental reveal.

Bejo, last seen in her Oscar nominated performance in The Artist, gets to battle the maelstrom of Marie’s construction. Rahim is a meditative presence that quickly realises that he’s a pawn in the unfolding events. However in the fierce presences of Bejo and Mosaffa he retreats into the scenery. Mosaffa’s Ahmad is Farhadi’s secret weapon. While he’s introduced as the abrasive, stubborn and impatient future partner he’s a trap door into the emotional depths you’re forced to explore. When you’re looking at him through the x-ray vision of his son Fouad (terrifically played by Elyes Aguis) it’s impossible not to feel the weight of his struggle.

The Past doesn’t have the thrilling tempo of Farhadi’s previous Oscar winning A Separation; but it’s as if you’re cemented into concrete boots and tossed into the chasm of consequence. 


Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.

Directed by Asghar Farhadi

Written by: Asghar Farhadi

Starring: Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Pauline Burlet, Elyes Aguis, Jeanne Jestin

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