Asghar Farhadi Explains Why Winning An Oscar Didn't Stop Him From Making 'The Past'
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi was on top of the world a year ago, when he won the foreign language Oscar for his tense family drama "A Separation," but that didn't slow him down. A mere two months after the ceremony, Farhadi was at the Cannes Film Festival with an even bigger follow-up, "The Past," another elegant tale of family discord about the experiences of frantic mother Marie (Berenice Bejo, in a role initially intended for Marion Cotillard) stuck between two men — her ex-husband and her current one. Like "A Separation," Farhadi's new movie drew raves for its complex layers of plot that gradually revealed a sophisticated dynamic between the characters hidden beneath their constant arguments. Set in Paris, the movie begins from the perspective of Marie's ex Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), who journeys from Iran to finalize their divorce, and concludes by shifting focus to the newer man in her life, Samir (Tahar Rahim). Like "A Separation," sudden events threaten to destroy a family already stuck in a downward spiral, and it's only clear towards the end just how much of the situation has been complicated by small alterations of the truth and morally questionable actions.
"The Past" drew raves at Cannes, landing a best actress prize for Bejo and distribution with "A Separation" distributor Sony Pictures Classics. While Farhadi has been making films in Iran for years, the success of "A Separation" suggested he wasn't solely committed to making movies under the watchful eye of his country's government; "The Past" confirms that possibility by proving that this humanist filmmaker belongs to the world.
Farhadi didn't change his plans after his Oscar win because he had already completed "The Past." He was grateful that his sudden popularity didn't alter the direction of his career. "I believe awards that one can get are good in general, but really dangerous for a filmmaker," he said. He's committed to telling stories based around the mysteries of human behavior. "I try my best to work on details in a way that the audience watching the film will not understand directly," he explained. "But it affects them unconsciously nevertheless." These days, he's planning to direct an opera in Italy and write an English language screenplay. "The stories I wrote are going to decide for me where I make them," he said. "I am not the kind of artist who, once he can't make movies anymore, starts painting or making music. I am a filmmaker."
On The Past:
Awards season reduces a lot of people to smiling objects, but actresses experience this dilemma worse than most.
It is a good time to be Asghar Farhadi. The Iranian director's last film, "A Separation," received acclaim all over the world, a journey that culminated with its Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012. Farhadi became the first Iranian to be accorded with this honor. Later that year, he was listed as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine.
As we await the open of TIFF 2013, here are a few films that will play there that have already screened at other festivals so far this year.