Sunday, January 29, 2017

Review: The Salesman

Image courtesy of Cohen Media Group.
Similar to his 2011 masterpiece "A Separation," Asghar Farhadi's latest picture also deals with an incident from which conflicting perspectives arise, but it's 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 begins rattling and the tenants are told that it will soon collapse. The couple is then left searching for a new place to stay.

But 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.

In the film's final third, 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 differs vastly 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.

"The Salesman" is a powerful drama that could be technically described as a thriller, albeit one that is more interested in psychological terrain than mystery. Although "A Separation" remains Farhadi's greatest work, the director's latest is further proof that he is the most accomplished filmmaker working in his native country today.

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