Review: ‘The Salesman’ is Touching and Potent

Kyra Power ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

From Iranian writer director, Asghar Farhadi, the mastermind behind A Separation and The Past comes The Salesman, a drama following a couple living in Tehran. After Emad (Shahab Hosseini)’s wife, Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) is assaulted in their new home, both husband and wife must come to terms with what has happened. Emad, a high school teacher, and Rana both perform in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. As the play’s run progresses, Emad and Rana deal with varying stages of grief, anger, shame and revenge.

Taking place in a society where sex, much less rape, is rarely discussed, The Salesman offers a complex look into how husbands, wives, and society itself must deal with assault. At no point is any violence shown or does anyone mention any term even resembling sexual assault, but the violence that occurs to Rana is there, lurking in every corner of the film. The refusal to talk about it on Rana’s part only adds to its strength, allowing the worst to be imagined. This ultimately helps the viewer see Emad’s perspective as he struggles with his concept of how to be a husband. Farhadi composes the story beautifully; both characters are raw and their struggle to come to an understanding very real. The film has several scenes of their performance of Death of a Salesman. The scenes Farhadi chooses to show perfectly reflect how each character is feeling. Just after her attack, Emad’s character discusses his failures as a person with Rana’s causing her to break down on stage. When Emad feels his costar, Babak, is in part to blame for what happened to Rana, he goes off script, screaming and yelling at him. The play’s placement gives these people a voice and a place to reflect in a normally silent world.

Taraneh Alidoosti in The Salesman. Photo Credit: Cohen Media Group. 

Both Hosseini and Alidoosti offer incredible performances. Portraying the subtle emotions Farhadi writes is no easy task, but they manage it beautifully. In no way are they overdone, and they play well off each other. The supporting cast is additionally very talented. From the young boy, Sadra to the small roles of Majid and his wife, each actor offers a strong performance, helping to build the story surrounding this attack. In addition to a great cast, Farhadi builds the story well through the lack of score and limited lighting. There is no music to gloss over the painful moments or to tell the audience how to feel, as the characters are not sure how they feel either. Like real life, there are shadows and darkness in each room. The Salesman seems to be a reflection of life’s raw and painful parts. These elements do that splendidly, and make a tragic story a joy to watch.

These aspects combined offer no doubt as to why The Salesman won Best Screenplay and Hosseini Best Actor at Cannes, and its Best Foreign Language Film nomination at the Academy Awards. Farhadi’s work has been internationally acclaimed, but unfortunately, he will not be able to attend the Oscars this February. Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’ on seven countries includes Iran and Farhadi despite his critical and international acclaim. It seems a shame that such a talented storyteller will not be allowed to attend a celebration of his work.

Overall Grade: A 

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