More than one separation is at the heart of The Past, Asghar Farhadi’s first film made outside his native Iran. In a country where cinematic talent exists in inverse proportion to artistic freedom, Farhadi emerged as a major figure when his fifth feature, A Separation, wowed festival audiences and eventually won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar last year. Although the Iranian powers-that-be tend to convey ambivalence about their filmmakers’ success overseas (do we take a moment for nationalistic chest-thumping, or condemn the Western devils and their corrupting influence?), something about A Separation earned Farhadi the right to journey to France to make his next picture.
With one exception, The Past is much like A Separation: deliberate, full of feeling, scrupulously made.