Asghar FarhadiIran / France125 minutes2016ColourPersian
A sudden eruption of violence creates an atmosphere of simmering tension between a husband and wife, in this work of slow-burning domestic suspense from Academy Award–winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation).
Their Tehran apartment block on the brink of collapse, a couple is obliged to move into a shabby nearby flat. Soon an unfriendly visitor comes calling and there is an eruption of violence. Before we can get our bearings, this work of slow-burning suspense has us unnerved and unable to look away. We are locked in a realm of simmering domestic tension elegantly rendered by Iran's modern master Asghar Farhadi.
Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) are the troubled couple at the centre of The Salesman. Following the story's initial traumatic events, things turn strange and tense between husband and wife. Feeling vengeful and confused, Emad plays detective, while rattled Rana gives him mysteriously mixed signals. Meanwhile, the two are performing as Willy and Linda Loman in an amateur production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, and their onstage roles begin to resonate with their fractured lives in beguiling ways.
Farhadi rose to international prominence after A Separation won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film — the first Iranian film to do so. At Cannes this year, The Salesman received prizes for Best Actor and Best Screenplay, and it is not for nothing that the film received these honours. Farhadi's subtle control of camera placement and rhythm and his special gift for drawing incrementally shaded performances from his actors are key elements of his directorial signature. But so much of his singular talent can be found in the structuring of his scripts, which draw us in, turn the screws, and leave us breathless.