The Past

Written and directed by the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi The Past tells the tale Ahmad- Ali Mossafa- who returns to France to finalise his divorce after four years previously abandoning his wife and lifestyle to return to his native Iran. It is a film which weighs heavily with suspicion and mistrust between the four central characters, who constantly seem in conflict with each other whilst their actions result in tragedy and confusion for those hit by the fall out from their situation, whilst those in it struggle with conflicting emotions that are hard to fathom.
Right from the films opening sequence when Ahmad is picked up at the airport by his soon to be ex-wife Marie -Bérénice Bejo- it is clear that this divorce is not quite as simplistic as it should be. There are obviously still unresolved issues between the couple and their almost immediate feuding reveals this. Meanwhile the fact Marie has neglected to book him into a hotel in favour of having him stay at her flat which, aside from being in the process of redecoration, has the added turmoil of having her new partner Samir- A Prophet’s Tahar Rahim- and his son staying there also. Claiming the reason she wants him there is to help with her oldest teenage daughter Lucie-Pauline Burlet- who has become unmanageable is only part of the story however.
Things between the four soon disintegrate and a pregnant Marie’s relationship with Samir is further exacerbated with her stressed out relationship with Lucie and being openly still in possession of feelings for Ahmad. There seems little in the relationship between Samir and Marie to indicate they are happy-not once during the films duration do they as much as smile at each other never mind show any intimacy- and when it is revealed that Samir’s wife, Celine, is in a coma after a suicide attempt pre-empted by discovering their affair it becomes clear that this relationship was blighted from the start.
Throughout the film the source of who revealed their affair to Celine becomes less and less clear but it is an intricate web of lies which reveals that each participant is guilty in some way. Unfortunately Celine and Samir also had a son , Fouad, who despite being an innocent in the whole drama seems to be the one most affected, or at least the message is that at some point he will be.
The Past is a complicated film of complex emotions with little room for traditional film makers resolve throughout or at its denouement. It makes clear that the past shapes our future and if that is based on lies and unresolved issues then the present and future too can only exist on these terms. The performances throughout are excellent and Farhadi has created a film which provides serious thought provoking and intelligent reflection. It certainly is a film with plenty of food for thought and has already been awarded the Palme d’Or award at 2013’s Cannes Festival amongst other awards and nominations.
The Past is showing at the Fimhouse Edinburgh.

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