March 15, 2017

The Salesman Review

Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini

Sure, the current political climate assisted Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s emotionally blistering drama with its Oscar win, but The Salesman could have won on its own merits. Anyone who saw and appreciated A Separation will be emotionally drained by the domestic struggles of another Iranian couple. Acting couple Rana and Emad Etesami (Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini) have just moved into a new apartment when Rana is attacked by an unknown assailant. The ensuing fallout strains their relationship to the breaking point and threatens the production of Death of a Salesman, in which they star as Willy and Linda Loman. 

The Salesman starts with a narrative event similar to the also impressive Elle, but looks at the repercussions from a decidedly different angle. Emad seeks vengeance—public humiliation seems to be among the worst punishments available in Iran—upon the perpetrator, if he can find him, where Rana seeks to be free of the ever-present distress wrought by such a violation. 

Farhadi handles a delicate subject with the cleverness expected of a filmmaker working within the confines of a repressive cinematic environment. One can imagine the difficulty in getting such a story past Iranian censors; the film was accused of siahnamayi, or disparaging Iran. But Farhadi is able to effectively tell this tale despite the limits placed on what he can show and his characters can say. The Salesman is a grand new example of a film that gained creative strength from what it did not show, rather than what it did.