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Reading Arthur Miller in Tehran
The Salesman–– A Film Review

A Film Review by: Jennifer Parker

July 13, 2017
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Reading Arthur Miller in Tehran, The Salesman Asghar Farhadi’s seductively crafted drama, The Salesman, opens with the construction of a stage set and the destruction of an apartment building that will be the template for the entire film. To stage Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman in Tehran, high school literature teacher by day and theater director by night, Emad (Shahab Hosseini) must deftly work around the constraints of the government censors—how art imitates life—whilst keeping his wife and fellow thespian from decompensating after a brutal attack. Though a progressive woman, Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) has no desire to relive her nightmare by going to the authorities in Tehran. She’ll barely speak, is afraid to be alone, is afraid to go out. The audience is spared the attack, we know what happens even without an explicit scene. Writer–director Farhadi is skilled at working around the constraints of the Iranian censors and it lends a layer of sophistication that is often lost in films that depict violence against women.

Stuck in her head, Rana as Linda Loman becomes paralyzed on stage forcing the play to end long before the final curtain. The previously happy marriage begins to become one of discord and resentment that strains their relationship. Emad is obsessed with revenge. Rana just wants to make it through the day.

Taraneh Alidoosti as “Rana” (left) and Shahab Hosseini as “Emad” (right) in The Salesman directed by Asghar Farhadi.
Taraneh Alidoosti as “Rana” (left) and Shahab Hosseini as “Emad” (right) in The Salesman directed by Asghar Farhadi.
Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios and Cohen Media Group
Shahab Hosseini as “Emad” (left) and The Salesman director Asghar Farhadi (right)
Shahab Hosseini as “Emad” (left) and The Salesman director Asghar Farhadi (right).
Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios and Cohen Media Group

Asghar Farhadi, was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world by Time in 2012, after his film, A Separation, won the Academy Award® and Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The Salesman is slow–burning yet not slow moving–– Farhadi explores the psychological duality of vengeance and a fractured relationship while concurrently examining the male psyche and women in Tehran. It’s a lot to unpack—perhaps the best thing about Farhadi is that he doesn’t pretend he has all the answers.

Present–day Tehran is complicated. Like the film, it is juxtaposed with modernity and relics from the past. There are brief scenes to remind the audience that Tehran was not what it is today, nor what it was 40 years ago.

The city is beautiful and in a state of decay. It may never recover. Emad and Rana may never recover.

Willy Loman dies, Linda mourns. His death an accident of circumstances or an inability to see the future? Arthur Miller certainly knew that there were no easy endings. Farhadi’s seventh film is a loving tribute to Mr. Miller yet stands alone in its own right.

 


 

125 Minutes | Rated PG-13 | In Persian with English Subtitles
premiere on Amazon Prime Video Thursday, July 6th
OFFICIAL OSCAR® WINNER
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

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