DIR/WRI: Asghar Farhadi • PRO: Asghar Farhadi, Alexandre Mallet-Guy • DOP: Hossein Jafarian • ED: Hayedeh Safiyari • MUS: Sattar Oraki • CAST: Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini, Babak Karimi, Farid Sajjadi Hosseini.

Critically acclaimed director Asghar Farhadi, whose credits include 2011’s Oscar-winning A Separation, once again holds no punches in stripping back the thin veneer that shields humanity from our most basic instincts in his latest film, The Salesman. A drama simmering with tension, the film at times teeters on the edge of oppressiveness but Farhadi always manages to bring it home to its deeply reflective core. Revenge and justice, violence and forgiveness, men and women, art and reality, tradition and modernism; there’s a lot going on.

Emad (Hosseini) and Rana (Alidoosti) Etesami are a married couple acting opposite one another in a production of Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman. When forced to evacuate their home due to structural instability in the foundations, the two gladly accept the offer of an apartment from their fellow actor Babak (Karimi), whose previous tenant has just left. Gone in body, but very much still present in the items she left behind in the apartment’s spare bedroom, the couple learn that the mysterious woman who once occupied their home engaged in rather unsavoury nightly activities. Their new neighbours express delight in her leaving, hoping it means no more strange ‘clients’ will be lurking around the building. However, as Rana learns when she’s home alone one night, that is not necessarily the case…

Alidoosti is masterful in her portrayal of living in the aftermath of trauma. Rana can’t bear to be left alone and yet can’t bear to be surrounded by people, subject to their quizzical gazes and obvious pity. As a woman living in Iran, the search for justice through official means proves not only unattractive but potentially treacherous, leaving her suspended in limbo. Rana’s grief is all-encompassing but throughout, Alidoosti’s nuanced performance ensures that her character maintains a quiet inner strength that makes her compulsively watchable. Hosseini also shines as Emad, his pride of his proficiency in the cultured arts starkly contrasted by the intense rage bubbling just beneath the surface. His desire for retribution is born in two parts, both to avenge his wife but also to defend his own masculinity. The attack on her is an attack on himself by extension and, in the face of his crumbling marriage, Emad’s quest to find his wife’s attacker descends into a hunt for revenge. Much like Willy Loman, his theatrical counterpart, Emad is driven by a need to validate himself by obtaining what is in reality a hollow victory.

Instead of closure, the couple, and the audience, are left only with a sense of emptiness by the film’s final scene, but in depicting this failure lies Farhadi’s success. Ultimately, The Salesman is an intelligent and well-balanced film that, much like its characters, has a lot more going on than is apparent on the surface.

Ellen Murray

124 minutes

12A See IFCO for details

The Salesman is released 17th March 2017
The Salesman – Official Website


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