Available on DVD and Blu-ray from Mon 09 Jun

Asghar Farhadi / France/Italy / 2013 / 130 mins

Filmed in Paris rather than his native Tehran, The Past allows A Separation director Asghar Farhadi to explore greater intimacy than in his Iranian films while still dealing with the same themes of miscommunications, mistakes and regrets.

Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns to Paris from four years in Tehran to finalise his divorce from Marie (Bérénice Bejo) and see his stepchildren. He discovers she is not only ending their relationship but has also moved on to a new one with drycleaner Samir, played by A Prophet‘s Tahar Rahim.

Marie’s cluttered house in the Parisian suburbs is full of visual metaphors for packing away the past and moving on; suitcases, boxes, cupboards etc, but it’s the characters inability to let go of their baggage that creates the tensions. Ahmad and Marie’s relationship is clearly unresolved and whilst Samir attempts to begin a new life, his wife lies in a coma in hospital after attempting suicide. In this claustrophobic atmosphere truths and emotions are exposed.

There are few histrionics on display, at least from the adults, and Farhadi prefers his actors to react rather than act so the emotions and strains play out behind the eyes rather than in large gestures. Farhadi gets tremendous depth from his performers. Both Ali Mosaffa and Rahim’s characters mask their pain behind their different takes on fatherhood with Ahmad, despite not being a biological father, proving the more naturally paternal and Samir struggling to cope with his troubled son.

Bejo’s Marie is a woman trapped by her life choices. With two children and an ersatz stepchild she seems constantly to be looking to men to provide her with both security and escape. Not always a sympathetic character, Bejo’s playing allows us to get closer to her, slowly revealing her well hidden wounds.

Farhadi has become a master at unveiling the intimate drama behind closed doors. As an Iranian filmmaker his work has often been judged in a cultural context, but here he shows that the messy, complicated, painful truths of human relationships and the baggage they leave us with are universal.