The Salesman FILM REVIEW
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi
Starring: Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti, Babak Karimi, Mina Sadati
Language: Persian with English subtitles
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements and a brief bloody image
Running Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
**** out of *****
While performing Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, Emad and Rana Etesami find their relationship being tested in THE SALESMAN.
Confucius' famous proverb says “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” Now that could be taken literally or figuratively. In one respect the quest for vengeance may result in closure but could cost you your life. On the other hand it could also mean finding closure but ultimately part of you dies. Revenge has been a staple of cinema and over the decades we have seen many variations on the theme. You have your popular action-revenge films starring the likes of Steven Seagal or Sylvester Stallone. Then there are revenge epics like KILL BILL, OLDBOY or even DEATH WISH (1974), before it became a by-the-numbers exploitation series. Director Asghar Farhadi's latest film, THE SALESMAN, is an enthralling film about vengeance that may not be as grandiose as the films previously mentioned but carries an emotional gravitas others lack.
In the film, an acting couple, Emad and Rana Etesami, potrayed by Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti, respectively, are rehearsing for their production of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman." In the midst of their preparation they move into a flat which they are renting from one of their fellow performers. While there they discover the previous tenant has left behind their belongings but it doesn't appear as though they have moved out. One night, while Emad was at the theatre, Rana is assaulted in their new home. Who attacked her and why? Emad not only intends to find out but seeks vengeance as well. In other directors' hands this would likely trigger a Michael Bay camera move as we know Emad is about to kick ass. However, this is not that type of film.
Farhadi's film is not only a compelling tale about vengeance but is also a highly engrossing mystery. In a very measured and realistic fashion, Farhadi chronicles Emad's quest to find his wife's assailant. The film is never over the top, bombastic or comes off as unrealistic. Farhadi explores the impact the thirst for vengeance may have not just on the two parties in question but those around them as well. The dramatic fireworks that explode on screen are often more satisfying than those found in traditional revenge films which audiences have likely grown accustom to.
Farhadi reteams with Shahab Hosseini; they previously worked together on A SEPARATION. They clearly work well together as Hosseini delivers another layered, sympathetic and grounded performance. Taraneh Alidoosti is just as strong as his wife. Not only playing the part of the victim, she must convey the struggle between wishing her husband finds her assailant and her desire to forgive and let it go. She does so convincingly.
Farhadi's film is a nice twist on the revenge film. While vengeance is the driving force it doesn't unfold like a standard revenge thriller. Farhadi focuses on the emotional and physical turmoil that this couple is enduring and events are portrayed in a very realistic fashion. Farhadi allows the mystery to build the intrigue and tension and brings it all to a conclusion that may not only have you on the edge of your seat but have you asking what you would do in that situation.