The Salesman (Forushande) is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards. The film is from Iran, and is in Persian with English subtitles. It won two prizes at the Cannes Film Festival: Best Actor for Shahab Hosseini, and Best Screenplay for Asghar Farhadi. It was both written and directed by Asghar Farhadi. The Salesman is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements and a brief bloody image.
This is an engrossing movie, setting the scene for tension right from the opening sequences when residents in an apartment building in Tehran have to evacuate, as the building has been damaged and is unstable.
The two main characters, Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), are a young married couple. After they evacuate their apartment, they set up a home in another building, renting their flat from an acquaintance. The woman who previously lived there has not removed her belongings yet, and this sets up a chain of events that shake the couple to their core.
I appreciated getting a glimpse into the life of people living in Iran. I have had friends from Iran, but their descriptions of the country did little to prepare me for the environment depicted here. It sometimes left me wondering about the culture in Iran, why certain things remain unsaid in the film, and about the societal norms that were displayed during the progression of the story. It leaves me with a curiosity about this culture that is different, yet similar to my own in terms of human relationships.
Despite struggling economically, the couple has interests in the theatre, and Emad has a job as a teacher. His male students are reading “classic” books that are standard reading assignments in English classes in American high schools.
Emad and Rana are also actors, and are in the midst of performing American playwright Arthur Miller’s classic play, Death of a Salesman. This playacting and staging of the depressing story of Willie Loman very effectively alternates with their life turned upside down when an intruder enters their home. (Arthur Miller won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the Tony award for Best Play for Death of a Salesman.) It is no accident the screenwriter chose this play to be the play they are staging. Asghar Farhadi wrote a very finely crafted screenplay. Emad plays Willie Loman and Rana his wife Linda in the production of the play.
The tension builds and stays at a high as Emad seeks to find Rana’s assailant. The metaphors and parallels between the play and the couple’s lives being played out before us work so well together. It’s really a brilliant piece questioning what it takes to forgive, the motivations behind revenge, and the damage that happens to both love and trust when the unthinkable happens.
I saw it at my local movie theater, the Guild Cinema. It is playing there through Tuesday, February 7th, and will return for repeat screenings on February 20th through the 23rd. I highly recommend The Salesman.