Title: The Salesman
HTS Overall Score:
Before director/writer Asghar Farhadi was a film filmmaker and director was a playwright, penning many a script for Broadway and the like, thus it kind of makes sense that he adapts Arthur Miller’s “Death of Salesman” and blends it in with a tragic story that mirrors the pain and suffering of the famous Miller script to a T. “The Salesman” got rave reviews by local film festivals, and it goes without saying considering Farhadi’s career as a filmmaker, that this is a somber yet exquisitely intense work of art. Farhadi has written and directed over 7 feature films (with this being the 7th), and while I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of his movies (“A Separation” and “About Elly” being my 2 favorites), “The Salesman” manages to be his most mature and focused film to date.
For those who baulk at a little reading, be aware that “The Salesman” was filmed in Farsi and subtitled in English for the states, but don’t let that turn you away from watching the movie. The pacing is so smooth and the dialog so interspersed that you don’t spend a whole lot of time actually reading, but watching the plot unfold through visual storytelling more often than not. The film opens up with an entire apartment building losing structural integrity and forcing dozens of families out onto the street and looking for new places to rent. Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and his wife Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) are able to find another building thanks to an actor friend of theirs named Babak (Babak Karimi). The only thing is that the building still has clothes and belongings of the former tenant. Emad is a school teacher by day and both he and Rana amateur actors by night, and are actually going through the final run before opening night on Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”. After a late rehearsal where Emad is working late, Rana goes home to freshen up and prepared dinner. Hearing a buzz at the door she blindly rings the guest in and goes to hop into the shower, only for the viewer and Amad to witness the aftermath of an assault.
The film handles the subject of the assault VERY delicately,you can never tell whether it was just a simple assault, or something more intimate, and even the recovery from the assault never completely spells it out, instead allowing for your own interpretation to fuel the sense of justice and anger brewing at the situation. However, there is a sense of loss and suffering that goes on after Rana has recovered. Rana is feeling violated and scared (like any normal person would), and Emad is filled with impotent rage. Calling the police is a non-issue as Farhadi hints at the culture that fuels these types of atrocities in the home location of Iran, and both Emad and Rana have pretty much hunkered down and are trying to weather the storm.
While Rana suffers emotionally, Emad is more proactive. The person who assaulted Rana ran off prematurely and left his pickup truck behind, allowing the school teacher the ability to track the guy down and find out whom was responsible and exact vengeance. He’s ALMOST there when he discovers that the truck is a bakery truck, with several people able to commandeer it any time, which leads Emad to a final solution. Track down one of the drivers and lure him into a trap so he could find out the identity of the criminal and give him something to truly fear.
“The Salesman” is not just a simple revenge story for an assault. It’s an allegory (or at least contains allegorical elements) of political turmoil in Iran, as well as a comparison between the crumbling buildings of their homeland with the crumbling marriage of Emad and Rana. The film starts out simply enough, showing a loving couple and their life after getting forcibly evicted due to the building’s structural integrity, but soon morphs into a downward spiral after the assault occurs. An event which brings out skeletons in the closet and fuels hidden angers and problems that had been masked in the seemingly happy marriage up till now.
Farhadi does an amazing job keeping the tension levels at a moderate level, but then slowly cranking up the intensity until you’re on the edge of your seat in the last 40 minutes. What makes the movie so incredibly special is watching how the day to day actions of the lead character’s lives integrate into the bigger picture. You being to feel deeply for the leads and by the time you start to see Emad’s plan unfold you’re leaning forward wondering what is going to happen next, and by the end of the film the intensity has reached a peak. The film mirrors elements of “Death of a Salesman” (as you can tell by the title of the movie), and those elements of failure and suffering interweave themselves with Farhadi’s script so that the movie itself almost feels like a play within a play. There’s some minor pacing issues and people who are used to seeing things through a singular cultural lens may have a hard time digesting some of the decisions made, but those willing to watch the film with an open mind will have a completely mesmerizing experience.
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements and a brief bloody image
“The Salesman” was shot using the Arri Alexa digital cameras, and looks absolutely fantastic. The movie definitely has a slightly glossy and smooth look to it (there’s a few shots where the frame right looks a bit higher and more like that “soap opera” effect, that is minimal) and the color grading leans toward a cream and sand color (with hints of yellowing here and there) to imitate the Iranian locale. Facial detail is exquisite, with amazing clarity on facial hair, intimate clothing details and wider shots of the crumbling city. There are some shots that look a little bit soft, and a couple small flickers of banding pop up, but they are fairly minimal and only really noticeable if you’re looking for them. Blacks are deep and inky, with no crush and only a glimpse of digital noise, even in the darkest of scenes.
The film was recorded in Farsi and subtitled in English, and the 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix is exactly what you would expect for a dialog heavy drama like “The Salesman”. Vocals are strong and well replicated in the center channel, and the mains and surrounds use the rest of the ambient noises to maintain a good feeling of immersion. It’s never a really heavy track in the back speakers, but there is enough activity to keep them fully engaged throughout the film, and there’s even some nice LFE response in the latter half of the movie (especially when Emad has his victim trapped in the room and you hear those metal doors slamming.
• A Conversation With Writer-Director Asghar Farhadi
I love foreign films not just because they are different, but because when you view an art medium like film through the eyes of a COMPLETELY different culture, you get to view old and familiar things through a completely different lens. “The Salesman” is a perfect example of that, allowing us to see through a different lens the complexities and simplicities of dealing with something as simple as assault through a non “Hollywood” perspective. The nuances and details of the film are incredible and Farhadi does a magnificent job at directing Hosseini and Alidoosti. Audio and video are well done, and while there is only one single extra, it is a well done and extremely informative companion piece to the film itself. HIGHLY recommended.
Starring: Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini, Babak Karimi
Directed by: Asghar Farhadi
Written by: Asghar Farhadi
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: Farsi: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 124 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: May 2nd, 2017
Buy The Salesman On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
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