It’s been something of a strange pre-release for Asghar Farhadi’s latest The Salesman. Even before many get the chance to see the film, it has been the subject of much talk due to events in the US in recent months, but in a strange way this all works in its favour. Farhadi’s latest has been building in momentum and anticipation throughout the period, and indeed its recent win for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in February only amplifies both its thematic and social importance. Talking purely from a cinematic standpoint, this is of a tremendous quality, comfortably ranking among the best we’ve seen so far in the fledgling year.
Taking his cue from Arthur Miller’s seminal work “The Death of a Salesman”, Farhadi’s film follows a group of amateur actors who are in the midst of a production of the play and readying themselves for opening night. Amongst them are Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti); an off-stage married couple who have been recently made homeless after their building collapsed.
Thankfully through their theatre co-star Babak (Babak Karimi), they are given solace in a new flat but one that is in a slightly rougher neighbourhood. Returning one night after a late performance, Emad discovers that Rana has been the victim of a break-in and assaulted. Fuelled by rage and anger at both the event and the lack of police cooperation, Emad sets out to find the perpetrator despite Rana’s insistence that they forget the incident ever occurred.
With the obvious visual links between the film’s story and that of Miller’s work, with the events happening off stage affecting how the performances sway those on it, Farhadi’s film brings to the surface our human condition to avenge, to make right the wrongs that have been done, but here amplified higher when the local law enforcement seem unmoved. Emad’s conscience begins to evade him as day-by-day his rage, and resentment of the police and himself, boil over despite Rana desperately trying to forget the horrible incident. Farhadi has always been adept at telling stories about real human conditions and emotions and here is no different – it’s a compelling, reflective central conceit; one which raises many questions as to what we as an audience would do in similar circumstances.
Driving Farhadi’s stirring and gripping tale are the superb assortment of performances from all involved, led by exquisite turns from leads Hosseini and Alidoost. Reteaming with the director again after 2011’s equally impressive A Separation, Hosseini excels once more in what might be the actor’s best performance yet, one that is both powerful and meditative. Alidoost, meanwhile, is equally staggering as Rana as she wrestles with her own guilt as well as her minds desperation to try to erase such trauma from her mind. The ensemble too are excellent, Karimi in particular, shining throughout.
The one flaw in Farhadi’s arsenal here is in its finale, which for all of the complex and textured journey feels a little disappointing, but a finite issue isn’t enough to derail what is a wonderful piece of cinema. At turns tense and thrilling while also being still and sombre, The Salesman is one of the year’s best films thus far and can sit proudly alongside the director’s best work.
The Salesman is out now in UK cinemas, and available on-demand via Curzon Home Cinema.