Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"The Past": Iranian director's relationship drama with an improbable setup

Ashgar Farhadi has a new relationship drama in circulation, “The Past” (“Le passe”), this one set in France, and while it is a bit of a mystery and explores the underpinnings of relationships, I felt less stake in the situation in this film that I did in “A Separation”. 
A French pharmacist Marie (Berenic Bejo) takes in her estranged ex-husband Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) and invites him to stay in her home a few days (for them to finalize a divorce) even though she has a kids predating their marriage and has a relationship with a younger Muslim Samir (Tahar Rahim) with whom she is engaged. 

This all seems pretty artificial and incredible, and the only reason given is that Marie doesn’t trust Ahmad to show up so she doesn’t make hotel reservations.  Why not expect him to?  This turns into a drama about OPC, other people’s children.  It’s true that the script sets up several problematic relationa situations, such as Marie and daughter Lucie (Pauline Buret) or Samir and his young son.  Religious values seem to matter little and Islam itself is hardly mentioned.  Well into the story, Ahmad finds out that Samir’s wife is in a coma and apparently tried suicide, although some heinous behavior by Lucie my have instigated it.  Samir and Ahmad almost become, well, friends.  They certainly don’t act like rivals.  And gradually it’s Samir who turns out to be the most assertive person.

Sony Pictures Classics has actually published the screenplay, translated into English, online.  I’ve never seen a distributor do this before.  (Scripts can be accessed from Scriptorama or Simply Scripts).
I saw the film at the West End Cinema in Washington DC.  The print seemed a bit muffled and off focus.  For two weeks it played only at Landmark Bethesda Row, an inconvenient location for residents in Virginia.
Wikipedia attribution link for map of France showing territorial history.  

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