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Arzu Çevikalp Film Reviews

The Past: Remnants of The Past

Neither a joyful present nor a promising future awaits the one, who can’t forget the past. Living in the past is the equivalent of not being able to live the moment. If we can solve our problems at the spot, we can start to manage our lives more successfully; but if we fail, the past always comes back to haunt us. Constructed this movie, he has both written and directed, around this idea, Asghar Farhadi made a great character analysis in “The Past”.

As you may recall, the “Best Foreign Language Film” Academy Award winning director – with his film “A Seperation” – Asghar Farhadi, has been the guest of Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival recently. While Farhadi attended to this year’s Cannes Film Festival with his film “The Past”, Berenice Bejo won the “Special Jury Award”, an event that was applauded by the cinema lovers. Stating that he admires the cinematography of Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Yılmaz Güney, in this film, Farhadi turns his camera to the complicated relationship between a troubled French woman and her Iranian husband. Combining the elements, which he generally give shape using details, with different storytelling techniques, Farhadi turns a script with a simple essence into a complicated story. With his discursive storytelling style, he connects the main story to episodic byplays. He achieves this end via the family relations.

DIRECTOR UNDERLINES HIS PREFERENCE ON CONTRADICTION

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 give a message, in reality, Farhadi has swept the message under the carpet, as if he tries to add a mystery to the message. Instead of positioning the story in view of audience’s perception, Farhadi prefers a free storytelling method and tells 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. If I may say so, this is some kind of a trick to emphasize that this film is a French production. Even, he makes his characters estranged from us through “off screen” sound technique. Sometimes we can’t hear the cues of the characters. Trying to keep us in a distance from his characters, Farhadi makes it even harder by using long mise-en-scène shots. As the phrase goes, the loud noise of the windshield wiper that gives the audience a headache and the extensive lighting that hurts the eyes within the long “car” mise-en-scène makes us detached from the movie.

LOGICAL FALLACIES AND THE CONFUSION OF THE CHARACTERS

There are so many logical fallacies in this 1:1:85 cinemascope film of Farhadi. For example, showing Marie’s tendency to violence blatantly turns the high angle shot into an average scene. For this was an intended end, we are convinced that Farhadi’s main aim here is to create contrast. Putting Iranian men up against Marie, the French character of the movie, is the best example for this fact. In my opinion, it’s interesting that antipathetic French women and friendly Iranian men melted in the same pot in this film. However, if film was not turned into a complex family drama with emotional stresses and exhausting dialogues, it may have been a delightful movie.

Drawing attention to the cultural conflict between French and Iranian characters, Farhadi relates Marie’s 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 much 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. May be, the effects of the incidents, happened in her past, to her present are the factors that steals time from her future. 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 our problems, we turn into someone like Marie. After all, is this not the reason of Marie’s proneness to violence?

MESSAGE FAILED TO BE UNDERSTOOD CORRECTLY

Now, let’s see how this was reflected to the screen… After living separated from his wife for four years, Ahmad 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 the upcoming marriage of Marie wth another Iranian man. Thereby, the lives of two Iranian men intersect. Ok, it’s a good thing having the paths of these two Iranian men get crossed, but the fact that the actor playing Samir, Marie’s lover, is not actually an Iranian upset the applecart. Also, wrong expectations did not only wreck their lives, but kind of destroyed them. In my opinion, the characters behind the closed doors have no difference from the Pandora’s Box. It’s impossible for us to learn what 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 failed to be understood correctly.

LIKE FRENCH MOVIES WITH NO ENDING…

As a conclusion: 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. For nothing has resolved, all is left to our interpretation. Some of us may have thought that the director has thrown a curve 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 side of the film was quite successful. Our comment is: a small change we make can make a great impact in our lives and bring magnificent changes to our future. Right moment, right time is right “now”. 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… Enjoy the film!

Note: Film will be in the theatres on January 31st.

RATING OF THE FILM: 4.4

Credits:

The Past (Le Passe)
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Berenice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa
Duration: 130 min.
Production Year: 2013

Arzu Cevikalp

Arzu Cevikalp

She is a film reviewer and reporter who works with national newspapers, magazines and film criticism sites. She is a member of FEDEORA (Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean) She writes television formats and drama scripts, she also interests of acting in movies and had a supporting role in The Class of Chaos Goes Abroad. Her family is in the industry since 1963. Their family company Arzu Film one of the most important film production companies in Turkey. It is established by her grandfather Ertem Egilmez who is a very famous director. She's granddaughter of Ertem Egilmez and niece of director Ferdi Egilmez. In the near future she would like to work with a Spanish and American television channel as a format and script writer. Her plan for the far future is to be a director of full length movies.

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