Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Salesman *** (2016)

Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film for the 2017 Oscars.  In protest to the Trump Administration's travel ban directed at Iranian nationals Farhadi did not attend the awards ceremony.  That's a shame, because I think if more Americans watched movies from other cultures reactionary politicians would never introduce such policies.

The Salesman tells the story of an Iranian couple played by Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti whose lives get turned upside down after a home invasion.  The film begins with a harrowing sequence as their apartment building begins to collapse.  Forced to find a new place, they settle into a two bedroom apartment.  Emad (Hoesseini) teaches literature at the local High School and directs a production of Death of a Salesman by night. His wife Rana (Alidoosti) acts in the play.

One night an intruder enters the apartment and attacks Rana.  Insulted at the attack on his wife, Emad is torn between the conflicting emotions of revenge and being supportive to Rana.  A thoughtful man who his students look up to, he is unable to deal with his emotions, handling it with an uneasy stoicism.  What is expected of man in that situation? Meanwhile Rana struggles to deal with trauma and her husband's desire for revenge.

The filmmaking style achieves a sense of realism, immersing the viewer in the urban milieu of modern Iran.  One gets the sense of urban blight that infects so many cities around the world.  People go on with their lives the best they can and not lose hope.

As The Salesman wheels towards a heady climax, the film is interspersed with scenes from Emad's production of Death of the Salesman, a play with deep resonance to the themes in the film.  Everyone aspires to achieve dreams and sometimes expectations are not meant. Whatever happens we have the power to control our own reactions  An immersive film with impressive performances all around, The Salesman is a sensitive meditation on empathy and conflicting emotion.

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