The Salesman: Asghar (A Separation) Farhadi New Domestic Drama

Over the past decade, Asghar Farhadi has emerged as Iran’s ambassador to international cinema.

And with the untimely death of Abbas Kiarostami (last year at age 76) and the house arrest of Jafar Panahi, Farhadi’s Iranian films are all the more needed.

Original and prolific, Farhadi has made intriguing films that have been playing (and winning awards) at major film festivals, such as Cannes and Berlin.

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The Salesman, Farhadi’s seventh feature, world premiered at the Cannes Film Fest back in May, where it won the Best Actor (Shahab Hosseini) and the Best Screenplay Awards.

Like his previous films, The Salesman is an intimate, sharply observed drama, defined by sustained tension that builds up steadily up to the final violent act.

This story is about a happy middle-class couple in Tehran: Rana and Emad, played by Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini. He is a teacher and she stays at home, and they  begin to plan a family.  Meanwhile, they are members of a semi-professional theatre group, putting on a production of Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman, with Emad playing the failed salesman Willy Loman and Emad playing Willy’s wife Linda: both putting on grey wigs and makeup and playing older characters.

Just as the run starts, they are forced to move out of their apartment because the building appears to be collapsing due to construction faults–cracks snap across window panes.

The couple eventually find an alternative apartment, a favor by a fellow cast member. But they find out that this flat was once inhabited by a young woman who worked as a prostitute, servicing men at all hours of the night. Rana one night buzzes open the outer door thinking that it must be her husband, but it isn’t.

A sudden eruption of violence linked to the previous tenant of their new home dramatically changes the couple’s life, creating all kinds of conflicts tensions between husband and wife.

Farhadi has explored domestic discord in his previous films through his multi-layered, character-driven screenplays, which always keep the viewers in a state of anticipation and suspense, because not much is predictable, and nothing is what it seems to be on the surface.

In many ways, The Salesman is darker in tone than Farhadi’s previous films due to a narrative that is both disturbing and unsettling, in depicting the fragile nature of presumably deep bonds, whose equilibrium changes when the loving partners begin to lose their sense of power and control.

Farhadi’s slow-burning, visceral drama explores the social-psychology of revenge in the context of an intense relationship put under strain.  In the process, he offers poignant commentary on some taboo issues in Iranian society, such as the conditions of women and the workings of the male psyche.

Placed on a shortlist of nine foreign language films, of which five will be nominated on January 24, The Salesman opens in New York and Los Angeles on January 27, followed by a national roll.

Farhadi, who is 44, was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world by Time in 2012, after his film, A Separation, won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, as well as numerous other awards.