The end of something is probably the beginning of something else. Asghar Farhadi’s The Past is an exquisitely-sculpted film based on a family where the end of a marriage is merely the beginning of another relationship. Farhadi’s sense of narration is slightly incisive at times, which costs this intense drama a lot more focus and credibility in the ending scenes. Nonetheless, a microscopic attention has been given to each character, performance and theme that makes this brilliantly-performed film a very classy prospect. It simultaneously makes you realize that a broken home and a broken relationship between two adults affects the children in ways one doesn’t imagine until it’s too late to repair and mend the damage caused. The characters in Asghar Farhadi’s latest offering, after his award-winning A Separation (2011), continuously reveal newer sides of themselves and draw the viewer’s sympathy every now and then. This brilliant work of art analyzes the human condition to the level of it being anatomized, not just simply examined and portrayed to suit the viewers across the world.
Marie (Berenice Bejo), a Frenchwoman, is attempting to dissolve her marriage with her long-estranged Iranian husband, Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), and to settle down with her new partner, Samir (Tahar Rahim). The Past revisits some of the themes witnessed in Asghar Farhadi’s previous film, about mortality of love, and at the same time, establishes ideas about intimacy and domesticity in a step-family. Here, however, the idea is super-infused with a grand tragic theme — the past and its unfortunate and pitiless grip on us. The director has masterfully shown us the anger and desperation involved in trying to defy the past, that you’re trying to run from, only to annul incorrect life-choices.
The most-fascinating part about the story is that it doesn’t just have one central character around whom the film revolves, it unpeels like layers of an onion, slowly revealing the grey shades to every character without particularly siding by anyone. Whether it is Berenice Bejo’s role as a mother and a love, Ali Mosaffa’s role as that mature, silent observer who abandoned the family to suit his personal needs, or Tahar Rahim’s act of adultery outside the normal societal values. The drama is heightened by the smart camerawork of D.P. Mahmoud Kalari, who has lent an intimate intensity and a symbolic punch to virtually every scene. Everything happens for a reason, and the film compels you to believe that it does. Perhaps a fresh look at the age-old notion of all’s fair in love and war. If you enjoyed watching Berenice Bejo in The Artist, you mustn’t miss the role she plays in this film, which is a stark opposite of her sprightly character in the previous film. Definitely one of the best I have watched in very long time, the melodrama doesn’t seem unnecessary at any point. It’s real, and you know it’s happening, you just get to see it on screen.
The film was first screened at the Cannes Film Festival this year.