Monday March 3, 2014 5:23 PM
Hi everyone! This review of The Past was written by Arzu Cevikalp, a renowned Turkish film critic who writes for Haberturk.com and Beyazperde.com:
Due to political and ethical issues, Farhadi shot this film, which has a half dramatic, half melodramatic storyline, in France. Therefore the film has received no influence from Iranian culture. While he has no intention to send a message, in reality, Farhadi has swept the message under the carpet, as if he tries to add a mystery to it.
Instead of positioning the story in view of the audience’s perception, Farhadi prefers a free storytelling method and tells the audience to understand whatever they want. He really doesn’t empathize with the audience; because he prefers contradictions. His choice on completing the overexposed and underexposed scenes with contrast colors is the most conspicuous evidence of this preference.
Drawing attention to the cultural conflict between French and Iranian characters, Farhadi relates Marie’s (Berenice Bejo) dissatisfaction that leads to changing husbands frequently to her depression. Of course, Marie is too blind to detect her own depression. In fact, she claims that her lover’s wife was in depression. Then why does she always choose Iranian men? In my opinion, Marie doesn’t know what she wants. And this indecisiveness has brought her into this current situation.
Also a significant detail should not be forgotten: Marie is a selfish person. She is also prone to violence. For Marie, everything is like a game. Being too preoccupied to a degree that she cannot see how twisted relationships, lies and schemes destroy her life. Marie, in fact, runs away, because she doesn’t want to face her past. Therefore, while living in seclusion, Marie has a private life, unknown to others. As we all know, if we don’t solve our problems of the past fundamentally, we can’t live today in its fullest; always some problem appears before us and when we try to cover them up, we turn into someone like Marie. After all, is this not the reason of Marie’s proneness to violence?
Now, let’s see how this was reflected on the screen… After living separated from his wife for four years, Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns from Tehran to Paris, to complete the papers for the divorce. During this short visit, he notices the problematic relationship between his ex-wife Marie and her daughter Lucie. While trying to fix this problem, Ahmad will cause an important secret to be revealed. Also Ahmad feels a great sorrow due to Marie’s upcoming marriage with another Iranian man.
Thereby, the lives of two Iranian men intersect. Wrong expectations and decisions do not only upset their lives, but almost destroys them. Yet the characters behind closed doors are like a Pandora’s Box. It’s impossible for us to learn how they feel. We can’t interpret their motivations. And just at that point, obscurity comes into play. As a matter of fact, the things experienced in the past were meant to be and they were right for the day. What gave shape to their current personalities and wisdom are that experiences. But the message fails to be understood correctly.
While trying to stretch the story of a family, Farhadi disrupts the integrity of the film and therefore fails at the end. If we try to find out why Farhadi failed to give a proper ending to the movie after telling so many stories, the answer would be that Farhadi probably tried to end his film like typical French movies, where nothing is resolved and all is left to our interpretation.
Some of us might think that the director has thrown a curveball and some may have thought that all the themes presented on the screen were not given a shared conclusion. Then, did we watch this movie for nothing? No. We saw how a protagonist did hit rock bottom in detail. That part of the film was quite successful.
A small change we make can have a great impact in our lives and bring magnificent changes to our future. We shouldn’t lose time while we are at the right place and in the right time. I wonder, if Marie and her husband Ahmad had a chance to go back in time, what would they want to change with their current mindsets? That’s a mystery.