“The Salesman” is Asghar Farhadi’s candidate in the Oscars, and at this writing it’s unclear whether he will be able to attend, given Donald Trump’s political and now judicial crisis over immigration.
It comes as a surprise that Iran, with whom the US has no formal diplomatic relations and considerable official antagonism, looks as modern as it is in film and that the people live rather self-interested lives, with relatively little reference to Islam. True, in the opening scene an apartment building starts to collapse because of construction next door, and the flat that the lead character, actor and teacher Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and wife Rana (Taraneh Aldossti) move to looks cramped and cookie-cutter. The improbable house “fall” does satisfy a tenet of screenwriting, that a film should open with the characters being put in a real crisis, in order to hook the viewers. I don’t think that’s always necessary.
The film provides an excellent example of layering: the top level story, leading to a tragic death of a older theater principal and landlord, embeds scenes from Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”, and from the Persian story “The Cow” (Gholem-Hossein Sa’edi) which Emad teaches to his teen boy students in his day job (with a BW film excerpt).
The 1949 Miller play, especially the scenes shown in the film (in Farsi) certainly plays on the values of “sales culture”, where the husband proves he can manipulate customers to indulge a dependent family. In the play, that culture produces tragic results.
In the highest level of the story, Emad and Rana find that a female prostitute had lived there before, and the possibility of johns returning creates the tragic unraveling of the high-level plot.
Wikipedia link for scene in Tehran similar to film.
|Director, writer:||Asghar Farhadi (Iran)|
|When and how viewed:||Angelika Mosaic 2017/2/5, small audience, late afternoon (Super Bowl competes)|
|Companies:||Cohen Media Group, Amazon Studios|
(Posted: Sunday, February 5, 2015 at 8:30 PM EST)