Asghar Farhadi became a prominent name in the film world after the release of his Oscar winning A Separation (2011). He then gave us The Past (2013), shot in France, and returned to Iran to deliver The Salesman. While returning to his home country hasn’t evoked the same brilliance we saw in his Academy Award winning film, this one comes pretty close, taking out Best Actor and Best Screenplay at this year’s Cannes while also earning a nomination for the Palme d’Or.
Married couple Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) are really busy. Not only are they staring in an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play Death of A Salesman, they’re been forced to move after the building they live in is on the brink of collapsing. They find themselves in another apartment fairly quickly, thanks to their co-star in the play Babak (Babak Karimi). Turns out that the previous owner of the apartment engaged in prostitution, so had a long list of male clients familiar with her address. One night Rana lets a stranger in, thinking it’s her husband, and he assaults her. The physical and psychological trauma is unbearable and Emad wants justice. He begins to get a thirst for revenge and we slowly watch him become consumed by this obsession. His need to find this man becomes his raison d’être.
Not only does Emad begin to lose touch with his sense of morality, he also inadvertently disregards Rana’s feelings because his sense of justice becomes far more important. It’s instinct – someone you love gets hurt, you want to avenge this and exact revenge on the person who did it. Understandable. However, the deeper Emad gets, the more he loses his sanity and moral compass. At what cost do you try and make things right? You’re usually unable to tell when you’re in so deep, blinded by the pain inflicted on your loved one and this is precisely the case with Emad. All actions have consequences.
Farhadi’s stories are fuelled by emotion and put the power of storytelling in the hands of the audience. He presents us characters, incredibly real and relatable people, showing us their circumstances, without giving away too much, so we’re always left to fill the blanks ourselves. How wonderful is that gift? It opens up a whole new realm of interpretation and allows his films to be seen differently depending on who is watching.
While The Salesman might not pack the same punch as A Separation (let’s face it, not a lot does), its suspense and tension is transfixing and ultimately devastating.
Chloe Sesta Jacobs is a people and culture geek who loves writing about film and usually does so with her two miniature sausage dogs lying all over her. Chloe really enjoys world cinema and has been heard to say “if it doesn’t have subtitles, don’t talk to me”. She also tweets a LOT at @csestajacobs.