The Past (SBIFF ’14)

Film still from The Past by Asghar Farhadi

Chekov would have loved this film. Chekov has a famous line that says that, a gun in the first act, must go off in the 3rd, but a gun is not a gun, a gun can be any narrative thread. In Asghar Farhadi’s The Past, the secerets we keep from one another, are the guns that go off in the 3rd act.

The film is about divorce and rebounds. About the past being a crater that we are trying hard to get out of, before a new meteor of the present hits, and the whole Sisyphean task begins again.

We open with
The story of an Iranian man whose return to France to give his wife the divorce she wants. It takes us the whole of the first act, 40 plus minutes to figure this out. Asghar is a fan of slowly un-raveling the “onion” and peeling away at the layers that make up the truth, the story and the infidelities.

Marie, played by Berenice Bejo from The Artist Fame, is living with Samir, who has a wife in a comma in the hospital, a third act narrative bomb that I won’t spoil here.

As you can guess, a girl, living in the same apartment as her ex and new boyfriend is a recipe ripe for drama and lies and conflict.

Shot in Paris, and with no racial or cultural overtones, this is a straight shooter. The film is an absorbing, realist, kitchen sink, human study. The metaphors turn psychology into behavior, like Marie wanting to coat her whole apartment in a new coat of fresh paint.

It is as intricate as a watch, and is handled with the precision of a diamond cutter, for that, look at Asghar, director of the other Iranian sensation “A Separation” a couple of years back.

the secrets that almost everyone is hiding slowly but inexorably come to light,
The Past, part melodrama, part puzzle, sizzles with a kind of cinema we don’t get to see often.

– keyvan yaldai

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