By Sam McKeown
Film review for The Past (French: Le Passé)
The International Film Festival is being held in UCLan’s Kenyon & Mitchell lecture theatre starting from the 20th to 27th October. The film festival provides an opportunity for students and avid film goers to broaden their horizons by experiencing a variety of culture and language on the big screen. The festival screens theatrical performances from Japan, Korea, China, the Arab world and the finest new European releases.
On Tuesday night the film festival held a showing of The Past (Le Passé), a French film that tackles the realities of a reconstituted family. Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), an Iranian man returns to Paris to meet up with a woman named Marie (Bérénice Bejo – The Artist 2011), who later it is revealed he skipped out on and his only purpose of being in Paris is to grant Marie a divorce that she’s wanted for four years. At this time, Marie is living with another man, Samir (Tahar Rahim) and three children, two girls, eldest daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet) and Lea whose father resides in Belgium and a young boy named Fouad who is the son of Samir and his current wife, who is in a coma through a suicide attempt.
This spider web of character complexity becomes even more entwined when it is revealed Marie intends to marry Samir, Lucie it seems is going through a rebellious stage in her life through staying out till late and rejecting Samir because of reasons that become clear in time. The youngest in the story, Fouad is having trouble adapting to a new environment, which has been arguably forced upon him after his mother’s suicide attempt. With all this going on, Ahmad’s arrival only tensions the mix.
Throughout the film Ahmad seems to be a peacekeeper in a house that seems to be reaching boiling point, as well as signs there are obvious unresolved issues between Ahmad and Marie. With each new scene, details are revealed beautifully through conversation in a way that can only be described as a performance similar to the ballet. The beauty comes not from what the characters say, but the chemistry on screen through how they react, how they move and their facial expressions. It seems the director; Asghar Faradi has distanced judgment on the characters, which was a sensible approach because the audiences’ perceptions of the characters will change continually with each new exposure of detail to the plot.
The Past avoids stereotypes, not just through its characters, but also through its scenery of modern day Paris. Many films are guilty of portraying France’s capital as the city of love with clean cobbled streets and fruit markets on each side. The Past exhibits a true Paris, that it is a city which is decaying with grime, is graffiti plagued, but also a city that holds cultural and societal problems that can be related worldwide. The character Lucie is not just your average moody teenager; she is a young woman who has already experienced the hardships of adult life in the form of making irreversible mistakes.
Each character excels throughout the film by navigating and delivering their complicated material flawlessly. Samir who at first is quite hard to read and not an audience favourite, shines unexpectedly nearing the end of the film by showing the audience he is a character that is assertive and strong willed.
It is unclear what the director’s main point of the film is, but what can be identified is that it is a film that says that the human condition is prone to putting up self-imposed obstacles and only by tackling these obstacles can we truly find happiness. Acclaim needs to be awarded to the director Asghar Farhadi. His casting choice and direction made the film a very interesting watch that leaves the audience haunted with the fact they may have to face their demons to be truly happy. Farhadi won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012 for his work, A Separation.