Trapped between past and future, in a guilty, painful present, Asghar Farhadi's haunted characters of his latest movie, The Past (Le Passé), are prisoners of their own fears and lies. Men and women, little or grown-ups, are all busy building castles in the air, hearts torn between what was meant to be and what may be. A pregnancy is the only certitude, perfumes are much trusted saviours, unresolved feelings flow around a broken house, paint and smoke wrap around the senses and minds of them all.
Similar to his previous picture -A Separation- Asghar Farhadi's The Past (Le Passé) is about the loneliness behind our choices, a sensitive approach to life itself. The director takes a rather common situation -getting a divorce matter settled in order to embark upon a new life, with children of previous marriages brought together by the prospect of a new child- and turns it into an emotional, provocative story of loss and suffering. Dysfunctional families have a frailty that cannot be rendered into words, yet this talented director succeeds in building a dramatic veil around this misfortune triangle of Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), the former husband, Marie (Bérénice Bejo), the estranged wife and Samir (Tahar Rahim, A Prophet), the new man in her life. Ahmad flies from Teheran, four years after having left Marie and her two daughters due to a depressive condition, to mutually end their marriage, at the request of Marie who is with Samir's child. The all live in the same house, with her two daughters and Samir's little boy ever since Celine, the wife of Samir, drank detergent, eight months ago, ending up in a coma.
Asghar Farhadi's movie has no beginning and no ending in the traditional narrative structure of his previous movie, yet the resemblance lies in the investigation behind the love triangle. Samir's still legally married to Celine, who committed suicide upon finding about her husband's affair with the beautiful chemist, Marie. How did the wife find about the secret affair remains to be unveiled, yet this painful search for the truth reveals the unresolved feelings each of the three have for their past lovers. Marie is bitter in her treatment of Ahmad, even cruel at times, intentionally trying to hurt him or take revenge for having deserted her. It is obvious to the whole world, including Samir, that when two people still find reasons to fight after four years of separation, there are some deep, unresolved feelings that are anxious to surface. Samir, on the other hand, feels guilt, remorse and probably, still loves the mother of his child lying mute, lifeless in the hospital bed, waiting for the right scent or the warm touch to be brought back to life. Or not. Yet he is trapped between duty towards the woman bearing his unborn child and his pending emotions for Celine.
A powerful movie, with great performances - Bérénice Bejo, the quiet beauty of The Artist, even won her the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013- and excellent directing, The Past (Le Passé) is built like an emotional domino ready to shatter and drag along all the unspoken truths along. Ahmad's presence in the house is disturbing to Marie, her daughters, Samir and even Fouad, the cute, tormented little boy who, at times, steals the entire movie. When Marie is unsettled, her lover acts unlovingly, her eldest daughter, Lucie -a budding Marion Cotillard version- is lost, Samir is distressed by his little boy's anger, Ahmad is drawn into his past and all balance is disrupted. And again, truth shall not set you free or deliver your soul. Some truths are better left unspoken, hanging between blunt utterance and silent concealing, heavy burdens to build inside ourselves. The past is written in our vibrant memory more alive than the present and more painful than the future; there are slices of life that belong neither to the past, nor to the present and will forever shape our future. Resolution stands stark in between.