Asghar Farhadi has won Oscars before -- his film, A SEPARATION, won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film back in 2012 -- but now his most recent film has granted him Oscar attention yet again. THE SALESMAN, a gripping tale about a struggling marriage after a terrible incident, won the same award this year, and it is easy to see why.
Rana and Emad Etesani (played by Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini) are actors in a local production of "The Death of a Salesman", playing the parts of Willy and Linda Loman. When their apartment building becomes unlivable after the building starts to collapse, Rana and Emad begin to look for another place to stay, all the while nearing the opening of the play. One of their coworkers, Babak (Babak Karimi) offers up an apartment that he was previously renting -- and in which one of the rooms is still locked up, with all the previous tenant's belongings inside.
At first the residual impact of this previous tenant is a mere annoyance, but as more information is revealed, the situation becomes a bit foreboding: it is rumored that the woman was a prostitute, and it seems that she is not happy with the landlord. And then the incident happens: Rana, home alone and about to get into the shower, buzzes a stranger into the apartment, thinking it is Emad at the door -- and ends up in the hospital, a bloody trail left behind in the apartment.
Farhadi is known for lacing his films with difficult situations, and intricate characters -- he tells the tale of Iranian marriage from such an interesting perspective, especially when there are other layers of the story complicating things. THE SALESMAN is a perfect example of this: Rana is in a state of disarray, sifting through a turbulent array of emotions as the victim. She refuses to go to the police because she doesn't want to relive the experience, and Emad struggles in his attempt to soothe and protect her, with conflicting results... She wants him to stay home from work so she won't be alone, but she doesn't want him to touch her. Though her reaction is perfectly natural, Emad becomes frustrated at his wife's emotional withdrawal, and so begins to piece together what clues he has to find the intruder in order to exact some form of revenge. But what exactly that revenge looks like is where Emad falls short: in the end, the justice is less for the victim, and more for himself. There is a strong parallel between him and his Willy Loman counterpart in this self-destructive nature, and the result is devastating and uncomfortable.
The acting in this film is impeccable -- Alidoosti's performance is heartbreaking, and Hosseini sinks into his character's personal vendetta well. Farhadi continues to bring emotional intensity to the screen, and it is not hard to understand why the film won Best Foreign Film at the Oscars this year. THE SALESMAN is now playing at Midtown Cinema!