“The Past” (Le Passé)—Does the Past Define Us?
THE PAST (LE PASSÉ) was nominated for the 2013 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or award, the Iranian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award , and a Golden Globe. Directed and written by Asghar Farhadi of “A Separation” fame (winner of the 2011 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film).
Ahmad, an Iranian man (the remarkable Ali Mosaffa) deserted his French wife Marie Brisson (the sublime Bérénice Bejo of “The Artist”) and her two children from a previous marriage. Now living in Tehran, he is asked to return to Paris to finalize his divorce because Marie wishes to marry a third time–to Samir (played by Tahar Rahim) who has a young son, Fauod. In the opening scene Marie meets Ahmad at the airport, they embrace, and they run through the rain to their car. In the rear window Marie doesn’t have a clear view and she almost hits another vehicle. This small scene is symbolic of what follows: looking back at events in the past, and not getting a clear view of their meaning.
“The Past” is a a web of intrigue of Rashomon proportions. Everyone tells their version of the truth, but they do not explain everything, and the viewer is puzzled by intentions, motives, and history. As “The Past” unfolds, each character is imprisoned by his or her own version of the past. Opportunities to move forward are constantly threatened by each character’s backstory.The past seems to dominate and destabilize, reminding us of our own mistakes and unintended consequences.
The movie, “The Past”, conveys Pedro Almodovar’s brilliant comprehension of women’s journeys: looking back at past turmoil without understanding how the past can define them if they let it. Here, in “The Past”, each female voice is counterpointed by an equally compelling male one, drawing us ever more deeply into understanding very flawed characters, involving shifting of point of view and perspective that we see in the very best novelists.
The mid-point of the drama hits a few speed bumps, but the plot twists command the viewer’s attention and the personal drama packs quite a punch with the impending day of reckoning for each character. The camera refuses to give us any relief even at the very end, when the most essential question of the drama is raised. “The Past is an emotional head-spinning ride that won’t leave anyone indifferent.