In 2013, Iran’s Asghar Farhadi gave European artistic film a potency and purity it once had for several decades beginning in the late Fifties. I’m referring to the French-language picture The Past, set in Paris and built around several Middle Eastern migrants and one French woman, Marie-Ann.
Director Farhadi, who wrote the screenplay, has little respect for Marie-Ann (Berenice Bejo) even as he recognizes her humanity. The woman is pregnant by Samir (Tahar Rahim), the Arab man with whom she has been having an affair. This has followed Marie-Ann’s request for a divorce from another man (Ali Mosaffa)—all of which is due to Marie-Ann and Samir being creatures of quiet lust. The plot is pivoted on the question of whether the illicit affair compelled Samir’s wife to commit suicide.
The cast is expert. Bejo could probably never be false if she wanted to. The film is directorially not brilliant but certainly solid. It is as strong an “art film” as Il Posto (1961) or Betty (1992), giving no quarter, as it scrutinizes the theme of when divorce, however inevitable, fails to bring finality.
(In French with English subtitles)