Le passé / The Past (2013)

Marie: "Je suis là pour combler le vide laissé par ta femme."
By Asghar Farhadi
With Bérénice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa and Tahar Rahim

I was eager to see Le passé because I have enjoyed Iranian movies a lot recently and Asghar Farhadi is one of the most talented writer of intricate stories. I was surprised to see he decided to set his next film in France but was expecting a lot from it.

Marie is a French woman with two daughters. After living with the daughters' father, she married Ahmad, an Iranian man who left her and went back to Iran. Now, Marie has met Samir and wants to marry him but since she is not yet divorced from Ahmad they have to do it and it is the reason for Ahmad's return to France at the start of the movie. What could appear as an issue is in fact solved quite easily when both willingly agree to the divorce with no requests on any goods whatsoever, but with Ahmad back around, Marie wants him to help her with the eldest daughter, Lucie who keeps running away from home. But through discussions with Lucie, Ahmad might discover the depth of the new home situation...

Except for the language, those who have seen Asghar Farhadi's movies before should not be too unsettled. We have the same atmosphere, the same kind of troubles arising and most importantly the same ways of not saying what should be said by saying what shouldn't. While the main character and praises went to Bérénice Bejo in her portrayal of Marie, I think the most interesting characters were the males in Ahmad and Tariq who surround Marie. They both have their own issues but to see them in the same room was simply powerful. Far from the usual jealousy of men who have been in a relationship or marriage with the same woman, we see them starve for a truth that seems to be suffocating the family.

The pivotal character of Fouad, Samir's son, is also interesting as he is deprived of a mother but finding a new home. The principal interest of the movie lies not only in its plot, but in the fact that we are dropped in this situation with no clues whatsoever on everyone's relationships to one another and through the whole film we discover the multiple layers of the story. Every level of relationship is taken on as we have husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, mother and daughter, stepfather and daughter, father and son and also employer and employee.

The movie might disappoint in some aspects, for example it brings in characters and focuses on them for a while and then forgets them. While we do learn about them slightly afterwards, it might feel unfinished. Their impact on the story is not well known and one will draw their own conclusion which might be something that is true for most of the movie. There is a mystery and it occupies a good part of the movie but it seems not even interesting as the real focus is to see characters evolve and react about it. While they are all searching for the truth, we can't help but ask why? Why are they trying to find this or that when they created a problem in the first place. Are they not responsible? And these questions are what makes the movie so interesting because they are all legit and so are the characters reactions. Even with its loose ends, we don't really mind that much as the journey saw the characters grow.

I liked: Multifaceted script. Scrutinize the human behavior. The issues are very real and graspable.

I disliked: Some down time because of the change of perspectives. Characters who avoid the real questions.

Although I found it less remarkable as Farhadi's previous efforts, I would still recommend it as a skillful analysis of human behavior.


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