‘The Past’ is a harder film to love than ‘A Separation’

Berenice Bejo plays a woman caught in a headache in "The Past." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
Berenice Bejo plays a woman caught in a headache in “The Past.”
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

‘The Past’
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Stars: Berenice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa
Rating: PG-13
4 (out of 5) Globes

Strangely, the modern world is lacking in classical-style dramatists who churn out works with the breadth and depth of a Henrik Ibsen or an Anton Chekhov. The closest we have is Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi. Someday soon his surprise hit “A Separation,” in which all-too-human mistakes lead to a series of increasingly troubling misunderstandings, will be a fixture of school curriculums. “The Past,” his hotly anticipated follow-up, probably won’t, which is not to say it’s a massive letdown. It’s a knottier piece, less satisfying and a little harder to sift through, even as if its cumulatively as gutting.

Like “A Separation,” it starts with a divorce. Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) arrives from Iran to finish the paperwork with Marie (Berenice Bejo), his Parisian wife, with whom he parted ways four years prior. He arrives just in time to largely observe some major theatrics. Marie’s new boyfriend, Samir (Tahar Rahim, the star of “A Prophet”), is married, but his wife has been in a coma for months, following a mysterious suicide attempt. The details of this event slowly start to come to the surface, exacerbating a situation that’s left them and their angry kids unhappy.

Much of the action in “The Past” takes place — as the slightly precious title hints at — in the past. The lack of instant agency in the film makes the drama both compelling and slightly infuriating, as the story keeps building and twisting while making its points more obliquely. It lacks the grace and elegance of “A Separation,” being as it rests on the very slow parceling out of information that keeps reshaping our perception of events.

That’s not a bad thing, mind; “The Past” just lacks the instant satisfaction of its predecessor, requiring of the viewer more work to enjoy. It’s still very enjoyable moment to moment. Farhadi isn’t a writer who forgets visuals, though they can be a touch heavy; the opening uses a thick glass at an airport to literally separate Ahmad and Marie, making bluntly clear the emotional distance between them. But he’s a whiz at shooting in cramped apartments, where tiny rooms create both claustrophobia and little comfort zones for each character to retreat to when the burden of interaction becomes too much. Farhadi remains a great who knows how to craft little worlds that slowly come undone. But despite its performances and thoughtful camerawork, “The Past” is more enriching to piece together in your head after than it is while in front of you.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

Turkey: Voting begins in country's first direct presidential…

Some 53 million people are able to vote in the election, including 2.8 million citizens abroad. Until now, Turkish presidents were elected by parliament.

News

Libya seeks ceasefire as south Tripoli a militia…

By Patrick Markey and Aziz El YaakoubiTRIPOLI (Reuters) - Black plumes of smoke marked shell blasts and bulldozed earthen barricades mapped out the frontlines around…

Breaking: News

Russia mad about sanctions, says U.S. contributing to…

Russia reacted angrily on Saturday to additional sanctions imposed by the European Union over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, saying they would hamper cooperation…

National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Gossip

Susan Sarandon likes doing drugs in the outdoors

Susan Sarandon got very, very candid about her feelings on drug use during an interview with the Daily Beast.

Gossip

Chris Martin dishes on 'conscious uncoupling' with Gwyneth…

"The thing we told everyone at the beginning of the year is true," says Chris Martin about Gwyneth Paltrow. "We are very close. We are not together."

Television

'Game of Thrones' livens up Comic Con with…

By Piya Sinha-RoySAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Laughter and death did battle on Friday at HBO's "Game of Thrones" panel at Comic Con, one of the…

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Sports

Kevin Love becomes third NBA player to pull…

Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves became the third NBA player to withdraw from consideration for Team USA in next month's World Cup, USA Basketball.

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.