At its Tuesday movie night this week, the San Francisco Alliance Française screens the latest film by award-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi – “A master storyteller” says Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York.
The Past (Le Passé) stars Bérénice Bejo (the delightful Peppy Miller in the Oscar-winning film The Artist), Tahar Rahim (star of A Prophet and Day of the Falcon) and Iranian actor and award-winning director Ali Mosaffa. Farhadi’s first foreign-language film, The Past has won a remarkable 12 awards, and among the 34 nominations it has received are those for a Golden Globe, and five Césars. It also won Bejo the Best Actress Award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Time magazine’s Richard Corliss referred to her performance as “volcanic”, and Owen Glieberman of Entertainment Weekly described the film as “Magnificent and haunting”. Its impressive list of awards and nominations can be found on this link.
A follow-up to Farhadi’s Oscar-winning 2011 film A Separation, The Past also takes as its theme the drama and heartache caused by relationships in a state of upheaval. It tells of the complications which arise when an Iranian man Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns to France to finalize a divorce from his wife Marie (Bérénice Bejo) whom he had left some years previously, to return to his homeland. Marie has by now met a new love, Samir (Tahar Rahim), with whom she wishes to share her life, hence her wish to formally end her marriage.
Things, however, become complicated with Ahmad’s presence. Old wounds are reopened, memories are stirred, and Ahmad develops a closer relationship with Marie’s two daughters – the product of a relationship prior to her marriage to him – and also with Samir’s young son. To add to this domestic drama, Samir has a wife who has been left in a coma following a suicide attempt. Ahmad – aided by Marie’s elder daughter – finds himself digging deeper into the circumstances surrounding this suicide attempt and making some disturbing discoveries.
Among his many accolades, Asghar Farhadi was the first Iranian director to win an Oscar when A Separation was named Best Foreign Language Film in 2012, and he was also the first Iranian filmmaker to receive a nomination for a BAFTA (again for A Separation) in the category Best Film Not in the English Language.
On the subject of his films, he makes an interesting observation: “Classical tragedy,” he says, “was the war between good and evil. We wanted evil to be defeated and good to be victorious. But the battle in modern tragedy is between good and good. And no matter which side wins, we’ll still be heartbroken.”
The Past will be screened in French and Farsi, with English subtitles, at the Alliance Française, 1345 Bush Street, San Francisco, on Tuesday January 26 at 7.00 pm. It’s rated PG-13.
IMDb – The Internet Movie Database