Monday, January 27, 2014

The Past




Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, Le Passe (The Past) is the story of an Iranian man who travels to Paris to finish divorce proceedings with his soon-to-be ex-wife as he notices his new life with a new man as well as the strained relationship between his wife and her daughter. It’s a film that explores the end of a relationship as well as a man dealing with the new life his wife is making with another man as he becomes concerned about the new family dynamic. Starring Berenice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, and Ali Mosaffa. Le Passe is a chilling yet mesmerizing film from Asghar Farhadi.

The film is an exploration into the emergence of a new family as a man who was once part of that family starts to watch this new change while realizing that not everything is going well. Especially at it concerns the relationship between his ex-wife and her teenage daughter who doesn’t approve of her mother’s relationship with her fiancee who is still married to a woman who has been in a coma. For Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) who only came to Paris from Iran for just a few days, he finds himself in the middle of a family drama that is just boiling. Though he is not the father of these two girls as he is just the third man that Marie Brisson (Berenice Bejo) had married. The 16-year old Lucie (Pauline Burlet) and the adolescent Lea (Jeanne Jestin) do consider him the closest thing to a father. Even as he is also there for the boy Fouad (Elyes Aguis) whenever Fouad’s father Samir (Tahar Rahim) is working.

The film’s screenplay doesn’t just explore a troubled family dynamic seen from an outsider but also the source of this strained relationship between Marie and Lucie. For Ahmad, he would be the one to talk to Lucie as he tries to figure out why she is so angry at her mother as it relates to Marie’s relationship with Samir. What Lucie reveals wouldn’t just play into the Marie and Samir’s relationship but also what might’ve caused Samir’s wife into a comatose state. Ahmad is the film’s conscience in some respects as he just tries to figure out how to defuse things while he also figures out what is going on. Even as he knows that putting him and Samir in the same room wouldn’t be so good yet both men try not to make things worse. Samir is a very complex individual who tries to not make things more troubling as it is yet he has to deal with his son and his work. Even as it concerns his comatose wife as he has no clue if she will ever get better.

Then there’s Marie as she is this woman who had been through three marriages as she is about to embark into another one while her relationship with Ahmad is quite cordial though there’s still some issues the two have. Yet, she deals with the chaos her daughter has created but also has to face facts about what role she might’ve played into the trouble she caused in Samir’s marriage. Even as the third act is about Marie and Samir finally confronting the past over the events that caused Samir’s wife to commit suicide as it left her in a coma. The result would not only have the two face realities about the past but also the fact that it will be impossible to let go.

Asghar Farhadi’s direction is very simple and understated as far as the compositions are concerned where he doesn’t rely much on any kind of visual style. Instead, it is about the drama and how he creates scenes to play into that sense of tension that is boiling. Farhadi’s use of framing in the way he puts actors into a frame is pretty engaging as well in the way he uses that framing to play into some of the tension that is looming. Though it is shot entirely in Paris, Farhadi avoids famous landmarks as he goes for some very small locations in the city and its suburb to show a world that is diverse but also crumbling as it plays to the world that Marie is in with her ex-husband and her fiancee.

The direction also plays into some intense moments which involves Marie and Lucie as Farhadi also has the camera focusing on the other characters who are observing these arguments and such. Immediately, many questions come into play in the third act as well as the people involved. A lesser filmmaker would use flashbacks to play into these events but Farhadi doesn’t go for that and instead uses dialogue to help piece the puzzle over all of the guilt that will emerge in the characters in the film. Overall, Farhadi crafts a very captivating yet haunting film about a woman dealing with her past and the uncertainty it will have into her future.

Cinematographer Mahmoud Kalari does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from its use of natural light for some of the film‘s daytime interiors to its use of low-key lighting schemes and such for some of the film‘s nighttime interior scenes and much of the film‘s exterior setting. Editor Juliette Welfing does fantastic work with the film‘s editing with its use of rhythmic and methodical cuts to play into the film‘s drama as well as some of its most intense moments. Production designer Claude Lenoir does nice work with the film’s set pieces from the restaurant run by a friend of Ahmad to Marie’s home.

Costume designer Jean-Daniel Vuillermoz does terrific work with the film‘s costumes as it‘s mostly casual in terms of the clothes the characters wear. Sound editor Thomas Desjonqueres does superb work with the sound to play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as some of the sounds in the background. The film’s music by Youli and Evgueni Galperine is wonderful as it is rarely played in the film as it’s mostly low-key as in an ambient piece in one scene and a plaintive piano piece in the film’s ending.

The film’s remarkable cast includes some notable small performances from Babak Karimi as a friend of Ahmad who runs a restaurant Ahmad used to go to, Valeria Cavalli as that restaurant’s chef who remembered Lucie as a child, and Sabrina Ouazani as an employee of Samir’s launderette who tells Lucie and Ahmad about Samir’s wife as it is clear she might know more than what really happened. Elyes Aguis and Jeanne Jestin are excellent in their respective roles as Fouad and Lea as two kids who watch the chaos that is surrounding as they have no clue how to react as they would get in trouble as they find a sympathetic figure in Ahmad. Pauline Burlet is wonderful as the troubled Lucie as a young teenage girl who disapproves of her mother’s engagement to Samir over what she thinks plays into the suicide of Samir’s wife as it’s a very haunting performance from the young actress.

Tahar Rahim is brilliant as Samir as a man trying to deal with the chaos of moving in and deal with Ahmad’s presence as he also tries to come to terms with his own troubled marriage to his comatose wife and what he might’ve caused. Ali Mosaffa is fantastic as Ahmad as Marie’s soon-to-be ex-husband who observes everything that is happening as he’s sort of the film’s conscience as he tries to get everyone to be calm while he rarely raises his voice as it’s definitely a fascinating performance. Finally, there’s Berenice Bejo in a tremendous performance as Marie Brisson as a woman troubled by her strained relationship with her daughter as well as some of the trouble she might have caused for herself as it’s a performance that has Bejo being very un-likeable at times but also someone who realizes her faults.

Le Passe is a phenomenal film from Asghar Farhadi that features superb performances from Berenice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa, and Tahar Rahim. While it’s not an easy film to watch due to its themes on guilt and secrets about the past. It is still a very engaging film that explores a couple trying to start a new family only to confront the past with the help of a woman’s ex-husband who tries to piece everything that has happened. In the end, Le Passe is a marvelous film from Asghar Farhadi.

Asghar Farhadi Films: (Dancing in the Dust) - (The Beautiful City) - (Fireworks Wednesday) - (About Elly) - A Separation

© thevoid99 2014

2 comments:

ruth said...

Wow this sounds like a tremendous film, I gotta check this out. I missed out on A Separation too, which I really should catch soon. That's cool that Farhadi avoids the famous landmarks of Paris but focuses on the side of the city that's rarely seen. Splendid review as always Steven!

thevoid99 said...

Thank you. It's a film that I really wanted to see and I'm glad I finally saw it.