Asghar FarhadI’s The salesman is a modern-day tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions. The main characters are not Kings and Queens, like in a Shakespeare drama, but ordinary Iranians. To make matters clear, FarhadI has husband and wife Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidootsi) acting in a local production of Arthur Miller’s modern tragedy Death of a salesman. In fact, their life has started to take a downward spiral. They had to flee their apartment building in the middle of the night because it was literally crumbling (the windows were starting to crack). They rent an apartment from a friend who hides the fact that the previous tenant was a prostitute. One day, while in the shower, Rana is attacked by a client of the prostitute. Emad feels totally helpless and angry when he sees his wife so traumatized by the violent attack, and he is consumed with finding the man who did such a terrible assault on her. Just as he did with his two previous films, A separation and Le passé, FarhadI proves to be a masterful storyteller. The screenplay is constantly shifting to different points of view to allow for the maximum dramatic impact and tensions. Likewise, Rana who is understandably emotionally distraught after her ordeal, becomes, by the film’s conclusion, the stronger of the two characters and the moral compass of the film. Both Hosseini and Alidootsi are subtle and minimalist in their approach to acting. There is not an ounce of over acting between them. If FarhadI is a tad less focused here than in his two previous films, he makes up for it with a strong sense of drama and tragedy.
And the Oscar went to… The salesman is Iran’s entry as Foreign language film. It won. But Asghar FarhadI decided to boycott the ceremony when Donald Trump issued a Muslim travel ban involving seven Muslim countries, including Iran. To accept the award FarhadI sent two prominent Iranian-Americans: One of the few female astronaut Anousheh Ansari, and former NASA executive Firouz Naderi. Ansari read a statement from FarhadI. “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of the other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US.” It was the political statement with the strongest impact.
The salesman (Forushande)
Farid Sajjadi Hosseini
In Persian with English subtitles.