Sunday, February 5, 2017

Movie with Abe: The Salesman

The Salesman
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Released January 27, 2017

It’s hard to come back from an experience which involves extreme vulnerability in a space that previously felt safe. When a person is attacked in his or her own home, the road back to being able to function normally in a private setting can be extraordinarily difficult, for obvious reasons. When a home is impermanent or new, it means that the person has not had the chance to feel comfortable somewhere and likely will not ever achieve that. Presenting such a situation as the basis for a foreign film showcases the response of one family in another culture, offering up an intriguing perspective on an intimate crime.

Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) are married members of a theater troupe that is putting on a rendition of “Death of a Salesman.” Emad spends his days teaching young students and then joins his wife onstage each evening as they rehearse for the eventual opening of the play that they have created together. When circumstances prohibit them from returning to their home, they are directed to a vacant apartment by a colleague. After Rana buzzes in someone she believes to be her husband one evening, she finds herself brutally attacked and unable to cope with her new reality. Emad, though unhurt since he was not there, becomes obsessed with finding the man who did this, determined to hold him accountable for what he has done to his wife.

Asghar Farhadi is an Iranian director who has enjoyed steady success with a number of films released in the United States, winning an Oscar in 2011 for “A Separation.” That film and his follow-up “The Past” focused in on an Iranian families dealing with troubling events in their lives, and his latest is certainly no exception. It is poignant, to be sure, but fails to be quite as engaging or captivating as his previous works. The way in which it features “Death of a Salesman” and chooses its title purposefully suggests immense depth to be found within its story, but that can’t all be conveyed in its slow pacing and execution. Hosseini, who was awarded Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, is well-directed by Farhadi to craft a believable and relatable performance as the traditional household head who seeks justice for his wounded wife, also played strongly by Alidoosti. As an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film this year, this film serves as an exemplary illustration of filmmaking in another culture, and how people respond in a particular manner informed by their culture to a situation that could happen anywhere.


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