The films of Asghar Farhadi form an interesting counterpoint to the films of Joanna Hogg, which I wrote about last week. While both directors are fascinated by the way that group dynamics can impact upon our emotional lives, Hogg’s career has seen her transition from the emotional opacity of formalism to the conceptual opacity of surrealism while Farhadi’s relentless pursuit of emotional truth frequently has him brushing up against melodrama as he did with the magnificent Oscar-winning family drama A Separation.
There can be no greater validation of cinematic art than two directors approaching the same subject matter in radically different ways and yet somehow managing to produce works that feel as natural as they are satisfying. It is easy (and exciting) to imagine Joanna Hogg dancing round the question of who was responsible for the miscarriage in A Separation while Asghar Farhadi would arrive on Archipelago’s Scilly isles and refuse to let go until everyone came clean about what it was that was making them unhappy.
There’s a wonderful moment in the British situation comedy Peep Show when the emotionally constipated Mark Corrigan is confronted by a sister who wants to discuss their traumatic childhood prompting Mark to lament that the people who want to talk always seem to win. Asghar Farhadi’s latest film The Past is sympathetic to both sides of Mark’s observation: Yes… the people wanting to talk usually get their way and No… this isn’t always for the best.