The Past finds it characters searching for a future and struggling to live in the present; the past is not finished with them and will continue to plague their lives until it has been resolved. The Past is another intricate family drama from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi who is working outside of his native Iran for the first time.
Ahmad (Ali Mofasa) returns to Paris to finalize his separation from Marie (Berenice Bejo). He returns to the house he once shared with her only to find that her new partner Samir (Tahir Rahim) has moved in and is creating a new family in the house.
Farhadi doesn’t indulge in flashbacks; he’s too good of a writer for that. Instead he drip-feeds the details into conversations and confrontations, slowly constructing his characters motivations and secrets. By the end, you feel the weight that each of the five main characters is carrying on their shoulders. Farhadi’s film is clinical and streamlined; he ensures that every scene is delivering something new and skips over any scenes that don’t. His total control over the film is undeniable.
Thanks to an extensive rehearsal period, the performances in The Past are universally excellent as the actors disappear into their roles. The plot is deliberately twisty but this isn’t a problem when each development is handled with great care and given the space to breathe. What may have been seen as a big twist in other films is simply part of the narrative for Farhadi; and he treats it as such.
For The Past, Farhadi needed somewhere that wasn’t Iran and whilst he resists showing the over familiar Parisian landmarks, the location is largely irrelevant in a way that Tehran wasn’t in A Separation. Farhadi’s characters also come very close to falling into two distinct categories: the rational man and the erratic woman. It’s not hugely troubling for the film as Farhadi fleshes out all of his characters, but it’s definitely there.
The Past was released in cinemas on 28th March 2014.