The Salesman (2016)

A poignant human drama which shows how a single event can shape up individual attitudes, conflicts and resilience.

7/4/20234 min read

Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti in 'The Salesman'
Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti in 'The Salesman'

Iran,123 minutes, 2016

Director : Asghar Farhadi

Cast: Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti

Awards: Best Foreign language Film, Academy Awards, 2017; Best Actor and Best Screenplay, Cannes Film festival, 2016; Nominated for Best Foreign language film, Golden Globe Awards; Best international Film, Munich Film Festival, 2016.

Asghar Farhadi's critically acclaimed Iranian film, 'The Salesman,' takes audiences on an emotionally charged journey that explores the complexities of human relationships, morality of individuals and conflicts that lie within.

The film starts with commotion caused by a news that the building, in which Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) live together, is going to collapse due to some construction work being carried out on the adjacent land. They both, along with other residents are forced to evacuate the building and search for alternative accommodation.

Emad is a school teacher and Rana is a housewife and both also work as actors in a theatre group. The theatre group is preparing for staging the famous play’ The Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller. Emad plays Willy Loman the Salesman in the play and Rana plays Linda, Willy’s wife.

Unaware of the fact, that the house, where Emad and Rana Shift, earlier used to house a prostitute who had variety of clients. One day, as Rana is taking bath and is expecting Emad who is due to return from theatre, accidently opens door to a stranger. The stranger happens to be earlier occupant’s client. Mistaking that woman is the prostitute, the stranger enters house and then enters bathroom where Rana is taking bath. On discovering she is a different person he flees. Rana slips and falls causing glass to break and she suffers grevious injuries. Though she is not able to see the stranger, she is pretty shaken up.

As Emad returns and looks around he finds vehicle keys, some money and footprints with blood outside bathroom. These are the clues which prompt him to investigate about who could be the intruder. Rana doesn’t want to go to police as she doesn’t think it will solve the problem. So Emad himself starts an investigation in his spare time from theatre and school. The story takes an unusual turn when Emad discovers who the intruder is.

The film intelligently uses Arthur Miller’s famous play ‘ The death of a salesman’ as a constant backdrop for the turmoil that is caused in the lives of these two of its lead actors due a to an unforeseen event which threatens their interpersonal relationship. As in play, where a single event, Willy’s earlier affair of 15 years threatens to rock the family of four, here too, a single event is shaping up Emad and Rana’s attitudes, their emotional conflicts and their relationship.

Shahab Hosseini delivers a superb performance as Emad, capturing the character's inner turmoil and conflicting emotions with remarkable authenticity. Taraneh Alidoosti as Rana complements Hosseini's performance brilliantly, imbuing her character with vulnerability and strength, as she grapples with the aftermath of the traumatic incident.

One of the film's greatest strengths lies in its ability to engage viewers on multiple levels. 'The Salesman' serves as a poignant social commentary, shedding light on the complex dynamics of today’s society and the challenges faced by it.

Asghar Farhadi brilliantly juxtaposes what is happening in the lives of Emad and Rana with the scenes they are playing in the play to take the story forward, exposing the conflicts they share, their mental state and the differences within. The climax too is brilliant where characters display empathy and understanding over revenge and internal conflicts.

About the director, Asghar Farhadi

Asghar Farhadi is one of the few directors who has won Best foreign Language film Oscar Award twice, first for ‘A Separation’, in 2012 and then for this film, ‘The Salesman’ in 2017.

Born in Homayoon Shahr in May 1972, he joined Iranian Young cinema Society when he was only 15 years old and made number of short films. He did his graduation in ‘Dramatic Arts’ from University of Tehran and went on to complete post-graduation in ‘Stage Direction’ from Terbiat Modares University.

He made his first feature film 'Dancing in the dust’ in 2003 and his second feature, ‘The Beautiful City’, an year later. His film ‘A Separation’, made in 2011 was one which made him a kind of famous in festival circuit, since it won numerous awards across the world. It won Golden Bear (Best Film) at 61st Berlinale (Berlin International film festival), in process becoming the first Iranian Film to get that honour. Next year it also became the first Iranian film to win Academy Award for the Best Foreign language film.

In 2013, ‘The Past’ was Asghar Farhadi’s first film in the French language. The film competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and though it didn’t win award for best film, Berenice Bejo won the Best Actress Award at Cannes film festival for her performance in the film.

Interestingly, Asghar Farhadi did not attend 2017 Academy Award ceremony in protest against Donald Trump’s executive order banning entry of all Iranians. He was represented by two Iranians, Anousheh Ansari (First Iranian to be in space) and Firouz Naderi ( Director, Solar System Explorations at NASA, USA). After winning the Academy award for the film’ The Salesman’, Anoushah Ansari read a statement sent by Asghar Farhadi.