It’s still October, dammit! But with the record-breaking 76 countries submitting their films to compete for the 86th Annual Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Films, who on earth does not feel excited about it? Because I feel really excited! Best Foreign Language Films always becomes a getaway if you feel bored with all these similarly-themed Hollywood films playing on cinemas. And with the new regulation made by AMPAS that allowed countries to submit films not in their mother-tongue language, we can feel the heat even before the real competition is begun. Why? Because many of them have become champion in numerous international film awards, not to mention the two I’m gonna discuss in this post.
Yep, “Jagten” a.k.a. “The Hunt” from Denmark and “The Past” a.k.a. “Le Passé” from (surprisingly) Iran have already been drowned in the buzz at Cannes. Mads Mikkelsen’s astounding acting in “Jagten” has granted him a Best Actor win in 2012 Cannes, while Bérénice Bejo’s convincing performance in “The Past” is worth a Best Actress prize for her in 2013 Cannes. But this is not simply a “fight” of two actors in two films: in Oscar, it turns to be a competition between two filmmakers from two nations. Director Thomas Vinterberg might not be very confident with “Jagten” being nominated for next year’s Oscar, but Asghar Farhadi—who already tasted the sweetness of Oscar winning from his masterpiece “A Separation”—might already felt so thrilled waiting for his name being listed in next year’s Oscar nomination with his Iranian-produced French-languaged film “The Past”.
Of course, no one could guarantee that both “Jagten” and “The Past” will clearly make their way to the Oscar nominations next year. But again, they got the hype and acclaims, and perhaps the Academy members are too tired to watch all the 76 films. LOL. So, with no further ado, I’d like to share my opinion about “Jagten” and “The Past” which, I believe, are the two with the bigger chance of being nominated among the other 74 films.
“Jagten” is about how a naive, almost-white lie could eventually break a person’s life into pieces. Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is a divorced kindergarten teacher who lives away from his ex-wife and his beloved son. But he has lots of friends that could avoid him from feeling lonely. One day, Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), one of his student who is also the daughter of his best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larson), admitted to the headmistress that Lucas did a sexual harassment to her—which then slowly squeezes Lucas out of the neighborhood and friendships.
Some might find that “Jagten” is very emotional and painful to watch (not because of any violence scenes or what, but it really hooks your emotion so deeply that you can’t help but feeling hurtful by it), but in the other hand it is also less judgmental. From the brief synopsis above, you may conclude that Klara is the black sheep of all the bad things happen to Lucas (and at first I also thought so) but as the film plays, Thomas Vinterberg slowly releases her from any accusations the viewers might appoint to her. Finally “Jagten” becomes more multi-interpretative and less monotone. This is not a story played by blatant protagonists or antagonists; every character is so balanced-ly written that it is not fair to simply put the label “GUILTY” only to one of them. And Mads Mikkelsen delivers a great job! You can feel pain, loneliness, and despair wrapped in an obstinacy of a dad in his every gesture and mimic.
JAGTEN | ALSO KNOWN AS The Hunt COUNTRY Denmark YEAR 2012 RATING Rated R for sexual content including a graphic image, violence and language RUNTIME 115 min GENRE Drama CAST Mads Mikkelsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lasse Fogelstrom, Susse Wold WRITER Thomas Vinterberg DIRECTOR Tobias Lindholm, Thomas Vinterberg MORE INFO
Adapted from the play by Massoumeh Lahidji, “The Past” tells a story of a divorced couple, an Iranian man Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) and a French woman Marie (Bérénice Bejo). Ahmad flies back to France from Iran to accomplish the divorce procedure and to take some of his left belongings. But he finds out that the relationship between Marie and their children, especially Luci (Pauline Burlet), deteriorates, while at the same time Marie has already made a relationship to a French family man Samir (Tahar Rahim).
If you have watched “A Separation” or “About Elly”, you won’t feel strange with Asghar Farhadi’s “The Past”. This is his comfort zone, this theme is something that has granted Farhadi a big international acclaim, and perhaps Farhadi still curiously explores his skill in this scope. But as always, it is also meticulously written, multi-layered, and smothering. He is a master of conflict. He always knows when all the cards are supposed to be opened, and he loves to make the viewers feel surprised by how simple events that some viewers might not pay attention to could turn into a series of suffocating conflicts in the end. He knows how to make movies that show, not tell. His ability to make what appears on screen to look natural is worth an appreciation. Bérénice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa, Tahar Rahim, and even Pauline Burlet and the little Elyes Aguis who portrays Fouad, Samir’s son, did a nice and natural performance as a damaged family.
THE PAST | ORIGINAL TITLE Le Passé COUNTRY Iran YEAR 2013 RATING n.a. RUNTIME 130 min GENRE Drama, Mystery CAST Bérénice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa, Tahar Rahim, Pauline Burlet, Elyes Aguis WRITER Massoumeh Lahidji (adaptation), Asghar Farhadi (screenplay) DIRECTOR Asghar Farhadi MORE INFO
For me, both “Jagten” and “The Past” have their own positive powers for not only gaining a nomination, but also collecting chances to win the Oscar. But in this case, I feel like I’m gonna root for “Jagten”. For me it feels more “foreign” than “The Past”. FYI, the entire dialog in “The Past” is French and with no adequate information about the filmmakers, you might just think that “The Past” is a French movie (compare it to “Jagten”, which is entirely told in Danish). “The Past” is less Iranian, I guess. I also think that it may be interesting to have something reasonably new to win the Oscar next year, and “Jagten”—with its subplot regarding sexual harassment to children—may be an interesting one to freshen the award race. Let’s see.
Have you watched “Jagten” and “The Past”? What do you think of the movies?