The Past Blu-ray Review
This is not a happy visit. Ahmad (Mosaffa) is being picked up at the airport by his soon-to-be ex-wife, Marie (Bejo). They might as well be divorced. Ahmad has all his belonging out of their home and hasn’t been to France in years. Marie is ready to marry a new man, Samir (Rahim) and is carrying his child. They’re fairly civil on the drive over, but you can’t help but feel that something is wrong. Ahmad could have easily stayed in Iran and had a lawyer finalize this divorce. Marie could have easily forced him to stay in a hotel the time he’s there, but instead allows him to stay at their place. What are their motives?
Things quickly deteriorate as more players are introduced to this tense situation. Marie is living with her daughters from a previous marriage as well as her soon-to-be husband’s son. Her eldest daughter, Lucie (Pauline Burlet), has had a hard time adjusting to the changing family dynamic. To say that that mother-daughter relationship is strained would be an understatement. Lucie relays to Ahmad that she disapproves of Samir because he already has a wife who is in a borderline vegetative state. We learn his former wife might actually be in a coma because Samir and Marie were having an affair. With just over an hour left in the movie, I have not touched upon every twist and turn. Arguments blossom naturally and dark revelations spill out from nearly every character. Caught in the middle of all the revelatory madness is Marie’s youngest daughter and Samir’s son who are unable to deal with their bitter feelings and heart wrenching emotions.
Ahmad appears to be the most mature and level headed person in this movie. Despite the firestorm that ignites upon his arrival, he appears to have a slow working calming effect to everyone. His mere presence brings an embrace of relief, but also allows for old wounds to reopen. Once those sore spots begin to fester, characters begin to re-examine what happened and why it happened. Nearly everyone has a different view and feeling towards the situation and instead of solving the crisis at hand, things are further complicated. Marie appears to be helpless throughout the movie and surprisingly becomes the most unsympathetic person in the movie. Samir gets off on the wrong foot, but over time he appears to be the most conflicted person in THE PAST. Despite the focus being on Ahmad and Marie, Samir quickly becomes the focus in the final moments.
Marie and Ahmad are seeking the same thing during this divorce, closure. The movie doesn’t reveal the true reasons behind their split, but hints are constantly dropped. Marie is hoping Ahmad can help calm the nerves of the children so that she can move forward while Ahmad just wants to end their time together on a positive note before he heads back to Tehran. Both of their approaches seem impossible halfway through and I can’t quite say if resolution actually happens. Questions crop up through every family confrontation and by the end we don’t get enough answers to bury them again.
THE PAST features an amazing dose of acting. Everyone brings such blunt honesty to their character that at times I didn’t feel like I was watching a work of fiction. It’s a wonderfully written script where everything slowly unfolds through teary revolutions. The words are genuine and feel alive when spoken through this impressive cast. The direction by Farhadi is fantastic. There’s so much conversation in this movie, that when he slips in some silence, you can feel and see the tension simmering. It’s a wonderfully mixed story that’s part character study and part family drama. As to how this one slipped by the Academy last year as a potential candidate for best foreign movie, is beyond me.
Video: (Widescreen, 1080p) A well shot movie deserves this kind of clarity. No qualms with the presentation of this movie.
Audio: (French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio is crystal clear. This movie is subtitled in English. It’s a bit puzzling why there is no subtitles for the French language.
Commentary with the Director: The director is subtitled which is sometimes intersected by the film’s subtitles. It’s rather annoying. The director does a very good job at going over a lot of the motifs and themes that I did not pick up on. Definitely recommended if you have any questions as the credits begin to roll.
Making The Past (26:56): What you’d come to expect in a Behind the Scenes short, but the amount of effort that goes into set design and even building a full scale home was fascinating. It was also interesting to me to see how much of a real group effort everything truly was.
Directors Guild of America Q&A with Asghar Farhadi (38:30): A very dull interviewer asks a laundry list of questions to the director who has a translator with him. While it did give me a little background on his previous works, I felt that it was unnecessarily long and dry.