The Past (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
March 23, 2014 by Dennis Amith
Asghar Farhadi has written and directed another excellent film, but one that is short of a masterpiece as earned by his previous film “A Separation”. But make no doubt about it, this is a wonderful film in the oeuvre of this fine filmmaker. “The Past” is highly recommended!
© 2013 Memento Films Production, France 3 Cinéma, BIM Distribuzione, Alvy Distribution and CN3 Productions. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: The Past (Le passé)
FILM RELEASE: 2013
DURATION: 130 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: PG-13 (Mature Thematic Material and Brief Strong Language)
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Written by Asghar Farhadi
Produced by Alexandre Mallet-Guy
Music by Evgueni Galperine, Youli Galperine
Cinematography by Mahmod Kalari
Edited by Juliette Weifling
Production Design by Claude Lenoir
Costume Design by Jean-Daniel Vuillermoz
Berenice Bejo as Marie Brisson
Tahar Rahim as Samir
Ali Mosaffa as Ahmad
Pauline Burlet as Lucie
Elyes Aguis as Fouad
Jeanne Jestin as LEa
Sabrina Ouazani as Naima
Babak Karimi as Shahryar
Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns to Paris to finalize his divorce so his wife Marie (Academy Award(r) Nominee Bérénice Bejo, 2011 Best Supporting Actress, The Artist) can marry her new boyfriend, Samir (Tahar Rahim). During his tense stay, Ahmad discovers the conflicting nature of Marie’s relationship with her daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet). Ahmad’s efforts to improve this relationship soon unveil a secret from their past.
From award winning filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”, “About Elly”, “Fireworks Wednesday”) comes his film “Le passé” (“The Past”) which was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
The film would star Berenice Bejo (“The Artist”, “A Knight’s Tale”, “Populaire”), who won “Best Actress” at the Cannes Film Festival for the film, starring alongside Tahar Rahim (“A Prophet”, “The Eagle”, “Day of the Falcon”), Ali Mosaffa (“Leila”, “The Last Step”), Pauline Burlet (“La Vie en Rose”, “Resistances”) and young talents Jeanne Jestin and Elyes Aguis.
“The Past” begins with Marie Brisson (portrayed by Berenice Bejo) picking up her soon-to-be ex-husband Ahmad (portrayed by Ali Mosaffa) from the airport.
Ahmad has left Marie for for years and never returned home but because she needs him to sign divorce papers, he returns back to France.
Upon arriving, he finds his Lea (portrayed by Jeanne Jestin), Marie’s daughter from her first marriage and a boy named Fouad (portrayed by Elyes Aguis) who gives him an evil eye.
Marie then reveals that her boyfriend Samir (portrayed by Tahar Rahim) has moved in with her months ago and that she is pregnant with his child and so, she would like to have the divorce papers signed the next day.
And while their relationship is civil and for the most part, Ahmad is kind to the children and not outspoken, Marie still holds resentment towards Ahmad for leaving her four years ago. And that each time he said he would return, he never did.
Ahmad learns that while Marie and Samir are planning to get married, he is married to a woman named Celine (portrayed by Aleksandra Klebanska) who committed suicide and has been in a coma for the past eight months.
But still, Ahmad respects her decision but notices that she has a troubled relationship with Samir’s son Fouad, who struggles to understand what is his true home and the status of his mother, is she dead or is she being kept alive by machines?
As Ahmad’s presence in the house causes a bit of friction with Samir (who is upset that Marie didn’t put Ahmad in a hotel), the true friction in the household is with Marie’s oldest daughter Lucie (portrayed by Pauline Burlet).
Lucie, Marie’s daughter from her first marriage, has a close relationship with Ahmad and she tells him that she doesn’t want to live at home because she doesn’t like Samir.
Wanting Ahmad not to sign the divorce papers, Ahmad tries to tell her that the relationship is over and has been over and the divorce will be finalized.
But what each of the adults don’t know is that Lucie holds a secret from the past that will affect everyone.
“The Past” is presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio and in 1080p High Definition. One of the things that I took notice of while watching this film in HD is how impressive the detail was. The picture quality is amazing, closeups allow you to see the skin pores, wrinkles on a person’s face with so much clarity. You can see fabrics on clothing so clearly, stains on a house or paint chips with clarity and if anything, I was impressed by the overall detail of the film in HD.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Past” is presented in French 5.1 DTS-HD MA. “The Past” is primarily a dialogue-driven film as the majority of the film is shot inside a house, but there are moments where the film is shot outdoors, on a train. But for the most part, the dialogue and the film’s beautiful soundtrack are crystal clear through the front and center channels.
Subtitles are in English and English SDH.
“The Past” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary from director Asghar Farhadi.
- Making the Past – (26:56) A behind-the-scenes look at the making of “The Past”, from set design to casting.
- Director’s Guild of America Q&A with Asghar Farhadi – (38:30) The Q&A at the “Director’s Guild of America” with Asghar Farhadi.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:03) Theatrical trailer for “The Past”.
If you are a cineaste and were fortunate to watch Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation”, you pretty much realize that he is a special filmmaker that knows how to bring out his actors but also develops stories that are captivating, slowly building but ultimately making you feel by the end of the film that you watched something great!
A filmmaker who believes in thorough rehearsing, Farhadi is a filmmaker who has a sense earlier on of what he wants to see his actors to do, but also has everything visualized of how he wants environments to look and bringing everything together for his films.
“The Past” is a film that captivates an audience and you become emotionally invested in it because not only is it a family drama, it’s also an emotional drama in which you sympathize with all characters, who are no doubt going through a difficult time.
Marie is a woman who is getting married for the third time. There is no doubt that you can sense that she loved Ahmad but somehow the relationship left him depressed and leading him to leave the family for four years. In some ways, both are like oil and water. Marie is bold and verbal, Ahmad is silent and wants to have discussions in order to reason and converse and not the disciplining type of person.
But when Ahmad returns to sign his divorce papers, he realizes that Marie is a different person. A woman who has changed when it comes to demeanor and habits and understandably upset at him for leaving her.
He is the opposite of Samir, who is very vocal and if his son is doing wrong, he has no hesitation of telling his son to be respectful or disciplining him. But Ahmad’s presence has brought out a lot of emotions between he and Marie.
For Marie, she wants Ahmad to see that she has moved on without him, while Samir tries to understand Marie’s motivation of having her soon-to-be ex-husband, stay with them during the divorce paper signings.
But the children are who are important pieces to this captivating film. Marie’s youngest daughter Lea is the loving, playful type. While Samir’s Fouad is no doubt a boy who carries a lot of anger. This is a boy who wants to have a home, wants to have a loving mother but seeing Ahmad at the house and seeing how his arrival has changed things, causes him to vent out with anger. He is a boy who craves for a home and family, after losing a mother who tried to commit suicide in front of his father and is in a coma, being kept alive on machines.
The child who plays an important part of the film is Lucie, a teenager who prefers Ahmad over Samir but it’s through her that provides the film’s emotional complexities through various bombshells. And we eventually see how these bombshells play a big part in possibly having each of these adults realizing more about their relationship and for the most part, their lives will no longer be the same.
While “The Past” is no doubt a fantastic film, from a person who has made a wonderful masterpiece such as “A Separation” will face critics who will compare the films for its way of tackling relationships, the film’s pacing and fluidity but more often, it’s emotion delivered by the characters of the film.
To compare the two would be difficult as the stories are different and I enjoy each Farhadi film in their own way. With “A Separation”, the film is culturally captivating because of how it covers tradition vs. modernism, a character-driven storyline that makes you feel for each character and wanting you to learn their motivation.
For “The Past”, culturally this is where people will be challenged to sympathize with a character, as each character have their own personal faults. Ahmad is good-natured and kind and there is no doubt that part of you feels comfortable with him because of his kind nature. But at the same time, because of depression, he chose to leave his family and escape.
Marie and Samir will be looked at as two people who fell in love, but should it be right when Samir had a wife. Should they even plan a family when Samir’s wife is still in a coma? What if she comes out of her coma? What now?
Within each character, there is somewhat of a longing for something of the past that they know may be unattainable in the present, for the time being. You can tell that Ahmad (before he learns that Marie has found a new man) has some emotions for Marie and the house is a connection to his past, with the children but now knowing he is losing all of it and he must move on.
Marie on the other hand is a person who longed for the past as she loved Ahmad but had to move on with Samir. And as for Samir, what about his relationship with Celine? Was there love? What drove Celine to try and kill herself? And how such actions by the adult, has affected the children.
And as the film develops, each layer is peeled away until we realize that the past will now come back and affect the present.
Performances play a big factor and Berenice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa and Tahar Rahim are wonderful. I typically tend to be wary of how children are utilized in emotional films but each of the young talent featured in the film also did a good job and once again, filmmaker Asghar Farhadi knows how to bring out the best of his talents!
“The Past” is a Blu-ray release that looks great via HD. While the lossless audio is primarily dialogue and is front channel driven, there are careful shots that are employed in the film. Facial reactions, well-planned editing that compliments the film’s pacing. An in-depth audio commentary, making of and Q&A is also included on the Blu-ray release.
Overall, Asghar Farhadi has written and directed another excellent film, but one that is short of a masterpiece as earned by his previous film “A Separation”. But make no doubt about it, this is a wonderful film in the oeuvre of this fine filmmaker.
“The Past” is highly recommended!
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