After some brilliant and ground-breaking films like Pixote and Carandiru, acclaimed Argentinian-Brazilian director Hector Babenco made “El pasado” [Eng. Title: the Past] – a low-key drama focusing on the aftermath of a couple’s relationship.
Sofia (Analía Couceyro) and Rimini (Gael García Bernal) attend a party where they’re cheered adoringly by gathered guests for their successful marriage of twelve years – the perfect couple and an inspiration to all, they pour praise, one of whom, Frida (Marta Lubos), would even later confess to have masturbated while thinking about them. However, Sofia and Rimini throw a bombshell at the party by announcing their separation. They split amicably, and Sofia also finds him an apartment to move into. The only thing that required sorting out are the photographs, and how they could be split between them – they’re after all the remaining vestiges of their history together. Rimini isn’t interested in any – he’s after all a man in a hurry, to start life afresh for undisclosed reasons, despite ample evidence of their chemistry and common interests. It’s also plain to see that Sofia is still in love with him, but is willing to let go for his sake.
Rimini begins a relationship with photo model Vera (Mariana Anghileri) as soon as she’s dumped by her boyfriend. Vera, partly due to her past experience, is possessive and doesn’t take kindly to Sofia’s continuing interference in their relationship, who frequently leaves messages of advice and instructions on his answer phone. After an incident on a busy street, Vera gets hit by a bus while running away from Rimini – she dies.
Cue for entry of the next woman in Rimini’s life – Carmen (Ana Celentano), an old school friend who gets in touch to work together as interpreters during a conference. They soon marry, and Carmen also bears a child. But Sofia too has remained in contact with Rimini despite having a boyfriend of her own. After one of her frequent walks with Rimini and his child, Sofia unexpectedly kidnaps the child, to return it the following day. But this was enough for Carmen to file for divorce, and Rimini is reluctantly left to his own devices even by his father – the one he had turned to, until a neighbour passes by.
Rimini recovers and works as a fitness instructor when he embarks on a futile relationship with Nancy (Mimí Ardú), one of the gym members who will pick and dump him unceremoniously. He’ll end up serving time for vandalism, until Sofia comes to his rescue. She will remind him once again of the photographs that require sorting out…
The story is based on a novel that I haven’t read, so my observations are limited to what I’d seen in film. It has a lot going for it – fine actors, good direction, neat editing, and unhurried cinematography. My only trouble with it is the screenplay, where a lot of screen-time has been allocated to paint Rimini as a loser who requires rescuing, often by Sofia, despite being dreadfully treated by him on occasions. Bernal performs well with all his character’s limitations, but Analía Couceyro is flawless, giving a heartfelt performance as the suffering guardian angel Sofia. I like the premise – examining the aftermath of a relationship, and the film forces audience to reflect upon what they’d seen and talk about it, which obviously makes it a cinematic success. Highly Recommended Viewing..!
The Nudity: Mariana Anghileri, Gael García Bernal, Ana Celentano, Mimí Ardú, and Analía Couceyro
The film, with some justification, is peppered with scenes of nudity and sex from most of the main cast. Noteworthy is a rare instance of frontal nudity from beautiful Ana Celentano, and a topless tai chi by pretty Mariana Anghileri. Analía Couceyro, even while appearing nude in a scene, will be remembered, quite rightly, for her performance. There is very little nudity from Gael García Bernal, and that too happens in a dimly lit scene.