Asghar Farhadi’s Gripping “The Salesman” Can’t Be Easily Categorized
Similar to his 2011 masterpiece A Separation, Asghar Farhadi’s latest picture also deals with an incident from which conflicting perspectives arise, but is also a drama about a marriage in jeopardy and, to an extent, a thriller.
As the film opens Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and his wife Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) are actors in a troupe performing Death of a Salesman, although due to Iran’s restrictions some of the play’s scenes are being edited out. Emad is also a teacher, whose students appear to love him. During the film’s tense opening scene the building in which Emad and Rana live begin to rattling and the tenants are told that it will soon collapse. The couple is then left searching for a new place to stay.
Emad and Rana luck out as one of their friends in the troupe provides them with an apartment where they can temporarily live. However, one night the door to the couple’s apartment buzzes and Rana, who is alone in the apartment, assumes that it is her husband ringing the bell, so she presses the buzzer, unlocks her front door – leaving it open a crack – and goes to take a shower.
Upon his arrival home, Emad finds that his wife has been attacked – or, at least, hurt – and there’s no question that another person was in the apartment with her. But for a reason not quite explainable, Rana does not want Emad to go to the police. As time goes on, Rana begins to become more and more fearful of being left alone, while Emad becomes obsessed with finding out who attacked his wife.
As the film comes to an end Emad stumbles upon a suspect and while I won’t give away what happens, suffice it to say that the picture becomes less about Emad revenging the violation against his wife and more about satisfying his own pride and ego. In the process, his marriage to Rana becomes even more frail that it had been previously.
Farhadi’s films are intimate dramas that first and foremost provide a fascinating look into Iranian culture – and it vastly differs in his pictures than from the image in which the nation is often portrayed. Secondly, his films – from the masterful A Separation to the powerful About Elly and The Past, which was set in France – explore the differences between men and women, most notably in their responses to stressful situations.