The Past by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi
Le Passé or The Past is a slow film which takes place over a few days in the lives of ordinary working people in a Paris suburb in a huis clos of tightly shot, beautifully lit decors and close ups. Despite its straightforward appearance, it’s a “who-done-it”, Farhadi-style, with a strong emphasis on dialogue.
Ahmad, played by Ali Mostaffa, is the husband flown back to France from Iran to officially become the ex-husband of Marie, played by Franco-Argentinan actress Bérénice Béjo, who is known internationally as the star of The Artist.
Tahar Rahim, one of the French actors in vogue, plays Samir, Marie’s husband-to-be and father of her child-to-be.
Marie is at the centre of family problems and smokes more than we’re used to seeing in European films these days. She focuses all her angst on Lucie, her 16-year-old daughter who is against her umpteenth marriage, this time with Samir.
Farhadi speaks Iranian and his team worked through translators. This meant more rehearsal time, and Béjo says, it was actually a blessing.
“The rehearsals lasted two months, the shoot four. That allowed us to get to know each other along with the translator who translated our dialogues. There was no barrier. It’s quite nice to watch someone speak, not to understand, to wait for the translation, but as it takes longer to converse, you listen attentively... We had tested almost 50 per cent of our scenes. So during the shoot we could be even better. It’s a luxury.”
She also said that she found Asghar’s story-telling form captivating.
“Not so long ago, I thought how great it would be to make a film where one story is told from different view points. And I find that Asghar’s films are told in that way. When I saw his previous film A Separation, what I liked most of all is that one moment I liked the female character and then I hated her, and I’d agree with him and then agree with her. It changes all the time, and life’s exactly like that. The truth changes depending on the time and on what is revealed.”
Being put to the test at Cannes, where Le passé is vying for the Palm awards, this film was opening on the same day in cinemas in France. Expectations are high as Farhadi was notably acclaimed in France for his film A Separation in 2011, seen by one million spectators.