THE SALESMAN (12) – A Preview

Directed by Asghar Farhadi, Iran, 2016, 125 mins, subtitled

With Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini, Babak Karimi

Asghar Farhadi’s seventh feature is the fourth to star Taraneh Alidoosti, who plays a woman attacked in the bathroom of her new home. It is, however, Shahab Hosseini, superb as her enraged husband, who takes centre stage in this unnerving domestic drama from Iran.

This Oscar winning film displays an evident Westernisation of Iran, where kids watch Spongebob Squarepants on DVDs, and Mum and Dad act in an amdram production of Arthur Miller’s second most famous play. However, the film subtly makes it clear such parallels are only skin deep. The drama production has three provocative scenes cut by the sensor, the distrusted police remain unseen in spite of the violent attack, the husband teaches an all-male class while his wife stays at home.

Most telling, despite being the victim, Alidoosti’s character quickly recedes into the background, the film instead focusing on the husband’s impotent rage. He seeks revenge, but is this really for his wife, or just to salvage his pride? Farhadi avoids easy answers to that conundrum, instead leaving the viewer to wonder whether his film is a commentary on Iran culture or a product of it. Either way, it makes for a compelling, if uncomfortable, movie.

By David Vass

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