Uncovering Curiosities: Asghar Farhadi’s THE PAST

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) delves deep into the psychology of family and relationships with his 2013 film, The Past (Le Passe). This multi-award winning French–Italian–Iranian drama is an impressive piece of filmmaking which features strong performances and thoughtful ideas which will linger long after the film has ended.

On the surface it would appear that Farhadi’s film is a love triangle between a husband and wife (Ali Mosaffa and Bernice Bejo) going through divorce and the wife’s new love (Tahar Rahim) who has a wife in a coma. However it’s more than that. As a writer, Farhadi delves into different layers of their relationships, peeling away different facets which helps each of the three principals a moment to shine.

The action takes place in and around Paris, but Farhadi doesn’t give us a picture postcard version of the city. He makes use of the City of Lights’ less than glamorous suburbs, eschewing glitzy visuals for reality. It’s a brave move but it again illustrates that this is a version of real life and not a soap opera (which it could have been in the wrong hands). Very little happens throughout the course of the The Past’s running time, and save for a last act reveal, there is very little traditional tension. The tense moments come from character interaction and how they react to the situations they are in. There’s a claustrophobia to proceedings as many of the scenes are shot in the cramped family home as things are brought to the fore. A few scenes take place within the hub of the French capital, but this could easily be adapted for the stage.

Asghar Farhadi’s film goes for emotional action than onscreen thrills, using his actors as a way of delivering dramatic tension that never feels forced. Ali Mosaffa, Bernice Bejo (The Artist) and Tahar Rahim have the weight of the film on their shoulders and the trio rise to the challenge delivering emotionally nuanced performances that never feel over worked or false.