After fantastic reviews and great word of mouth coming out of film festivals across the world (including here in Vancouver), Asghar Farhadi’s seventh feature film The Salesman is powerfully human and ripe with metaphor. I’d say we’ve come to expect this from the Iranian director, who astounded critics and audiences with his 2011 Foreign Film Academy Award winner A Separation. Now, after being nominated for this year’s Oscar, not only does The Salesman face the stiff competition of Toni Erdmann, but it now has the danger of being overshadowed by the Trump flight ban, as Farhadi has stated that he won’t be attending the awards show. This film is a vastly intriguing exercise in cinema and deserves to stand on its own.
The movie starts out with our characters facing the imminent collapse of their apartment building home. Emad Etesami, a schoolteacher, runs room to room gathering his family as the windows crack around him, getting them outside before then proceeding to help the rest of his neighbors. Having nowhere to stay, Emad and his wife Rana move into a building run by a friend they know through the local theatre – they’re all involved in the current production of “Death Of A Salesman.” While moving in, the couple notice a room full of the previous tenant’s furniture and move it out for it to be picked up. This causes the person to become angry, putting events in motion that lead to the emotional teardown of Emad and Rana.
The humanity of this film is infinitely palpable and enticing. Farhadi plays the events of this husband and wife, complete with scenes from the famous Arthur Miller play that the two star in, with very interesting emotional parallels to play off. We also have Rana, who, through unforeseen provocation, finds herself in a position of utter weakness which in turn makes Emad feel almost emasculated as the protector of his family. It’s this acrobatics of feelings that bubble beneath the surface of actor Shahab Hosseini and actress Taraneh Alidoosti, both staples of Asghar Farhadi’s work, that draw you in and keep you rapt.
A master of his craft, Farhadi’s storytelling is the real gift when all is said and done, which is what makes the characters so rich and enticing. Even in the set up of the film, we see that their former home is on shaky ground due to a construction site next door digging out the foundation from under them. This is like the former tenant, spreading of gossip at their playhouse and Emad’s hurt pride digging away at what makes this marriage work. Farhadi never gets to a point where he hammers you over the head with this and proves that he can puppeteer a single moment and turn it on a dime with feeling. This creates one of the most tension-filled and totally reality based third acts I’ve seen recently. Watch this film before the Oscars this year and be on top of what incredible cinema was produced and damn the Donald for making this filmmaker question coming for his reward. 5/5