The Salesman


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Salesman
"The film's slow burn is gripping but, as it builds to a climax, the plot becomes overwrought." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

There's a lot of framing device to Asghar Farhadi's latest - a film that has become as big news for the visa debacle surrounding its Foreign Language Oscar nomination and subsequent win as its content.

First there's the play that his two protagonists, married couple Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) and teacher Emad (Shahab Hosseini) are staging in their spare time, Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman, glimpsed here at key moments, with a particular emphasis on their scenes together (the two play Willy Loman and his long-enduring wife Linda). Then there's their Tehran apartment, which they are forced to evacuate as cracks begin to show in the walls. Farhadi's symbolism certainly isn't subtle this time around.

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The couple move into an apartment offered to them by another member of the cast (Babak Karimi), slightly disconcerted that many of the old tenant's belongings still have to be collected but blissfully unaware that she had been garnering a reputation in the building for her 'gentleman callers'. When Rana leaves the door open for her husband one night, the way that Farhadi's camera lingers on it as it casually swings open has all the tension of a horror film and, sure enough, a bad thing happens.

Farhadi has always been a man interested in aftermath and here, he uses the wake of one night to explore notions of what it means to be a patriarch - at least in Emad's mind. He might see his plan of action as a way of helping Rana through her trauma but we can see that it is just as much fuelled by the sense that he and his masculinity, by extension, has somehow been attacked. The director has a precise control of mood. He doesn't need to show an attack to let us feel the wallop of the after-effects and this withholding also helps us to retain sympathy for Emad - who also doesn't know exactly what happened - as an unfocused anger mounts.

The film's slow burn is gripping but, as it builds to a climax, the plot becomes overwrought. What saves it is the strength of characters Farhadi has already built, who can just about carry the weight of events without crumbling.

Reviewed on: 19 Mar 2017
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Forced out of their apartment, Emad and Rana move into a new flat. An incident linked to the previous tenant will dramatically change the young couple’s life.
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Director: Asghar Farhadi

Writer: Asghar Farhadi

Starring: Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti

Year: 2016

Runtime: 125 minutes

Country: France, Iran

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