After the universal success of A Seperation back in 2011, Asghar Farhadi’s back catalog has been getting more and more recognition. With Cinema Guild taking advantage of Farhadi’s newfound attention, the distributor picked up and released About Elly in theaters and on home video last year. Once hitting theaters back in the Spring of 2015, the release brought Farhadi’s name back into the conversation after a rather disappointing follow-up to his breakthrough back in 2013 with The Past. This year not only finds Fireworks Wednesday finally getting released in theaters stateside after a decade due to the likes of Grasshopper Film, but it also finds Farhadi’s latest, The Salesman weaving its way from festival to festival after its premiere back in May.
In The Salesman, Farhadi follows Emad and Rana, a married Iranian couple who are forced to move out of their apartment after it becomes too dangerous to live there any longer, and end up having to relocate to the center of Tehran. One night after having already settled into the new flat, Rana heads home early after rehearsal from the titular practice for the production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman that the couple is working on together. While Emad stays back to talk to the sensor about keeping a few aspects of the play into the final production, Rana is brutally attacked at her new apartment in an incident linked to the previous tenant who lived there.
Farhadi takes The Salesman in an unexpected direction and begins to shift his focus off from the couple to more of a singular look at how Emad processes his wife’s attack. It’s certainly a unique approach to the material, but Farhadi never gets inside the head of Emad once he conducts his shift in focus. Never does the viewer feel like they are inside the protagonist’s head, or even really understanding his transformation in character. There’s this sudden change in his behavior from this caring husband to suddenly becoming this vengeful being that is only making his wife feel even worse.
The Salesman carries this almost home movie-like feeling to it that creates this familiar feeling within the images that at first feels quite jarring but eventually starts to feel in-tune with what Farhadi is doing as a whole. It’s creating this intimate relationship between the characters and the viewer that serves to put the audience in the shoes of someone who knows this couple, as they watch this marriage take a turn down an unfamiliar route.
Whether for better or worse, Farhadi gives his viewer a lot to chew on as he goes along, but there’s this growing lust for more that he leaves his audience with by the time he reaches the climax of his film. With all of his blunt metaphors and attempts to draw resemblances between the Miller’s text and his characters’ trajectory, The Salesman is far too frustrating of a film to really allow for the viewer to get invested beyond the initial set-up of Farhadi’s tale.