Monday, May 14, 2018

2018 Cannes Marathon: The Salesman

(Winner of the Best Screenplay Prize to Asghar Farhadi and Best Actor Prize to Shahab Hosseini at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival)

Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, The Salesman is the story of a married couple who stage their version of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman when the wife is assaulted at their new apartment prompting her husband to find out who assaulted her. The film is an exploration of a couple whose marriage is put to the test following an incident that has shaken both of them prompting to find answers as well as some form of resolution. Starring Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti. The Salesman is a rapturous and eerie film from Asghar Farhadi.

The film revolves a married couple who are staging their interpretation of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman as their apartment home building suffers a collapse as they try to find a new home where a fellow actor gives them a temporary apartment that eventually goes wrong when the wife had been assaulted while her husband was about to return home. It’s a film that plays into a man trying to find out who assaulted his wife as she is going through post-traumatic stress disorder which would affect her work in the play. Asghar Farhadi’s script follow the life of Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) who both work as actors in the play while Emad also works as a professor at a nearby university. With the help of their friend and actor Babak (Babak Karimi), Emad and Rana is given a temporary home but there’s a room filled with belongings to a previous tenant who hasn’t returned to get her belongings.

When Rana is attacked and left with a major cut on her head, Emad goes on this search that is the bulk of the film’s second act that is intercut with the performance of Death of a Salesman from Emad, Rana, and other actors which would parallel with the struggles that Emad and Rana are dealing with. Especially in the way Emad feels humiliated for not being there when his wife is attacked as well as unable to help her as she deals with the trauma of her attack. The search for her attacker becomes an obsession as he turns to a student whose father used to work for the police to track down a man who owned the delivery truck that had been parked on the night of the attack. Upon learning the identity of Rana’s attacker, things eventually become problematic.

Farhadi’s direction is definitely intoxicating in terms of the way he approaches theatricality in a country like Iran and the parallels it would have for this couple. Shot on location in Tehran, Farhadi doesn’t go for any kind of familiar locations or certain landmarks but rather set the film entirely in rural areas or in highways to play into a couple that is adjusting to their new situation. The film opens with Emad and Rana dealing with the impending collapse of their apartment as they try to get as many tenants out as it’s shot in one entire take with a hand-held tracking shot to capture the chaos and fear among the people. Then it cuts to Emad and Rana rehearsing with other actors in a theater as Farhadi maintains an intimacy into the staging as it show the actors wanting to create something that is faithful to Miller’s play but provide their own surroundings to make it relatable to their audience. The scenes of the performance of the play are interesting as it showcases the range of emotions from Emad, Rana, and the other actors as it would carry into what is happening into Emad and Rana’s real life as they struggle with Rana’s assault.

Farhadi doesn’t use a lot of wide shots except for a few scenes outside of the apartment or in a patio to get a look in the city as he emphasizes more on close-ups and medium shots. Notably in scenes that play into Emad’s own growing discomfort as there is a bit of humor where he falls asleep in class while his students watch a film as they notice he is asleep. It’s among the few light-hearted moments in the film that include babysitting an actress’ son as they were hoping to watch SpongeBob SquarePants. Still, Farhadi maintains that air of seriousness as it relates to Emad’s search as the third act involves him discovering the identity of the attacker but also some surprising revelations that relates to the previous tenant of the apartment that Emad and Rana live in. Even as it would play into the same paralleling fates that Willy Loman endured in Death of a Salesman where Emad and Rana cope with an event that would shake their marriage. Overall, Farhadi crafts a chilling and evocative film about a couple’s life shaken by an assault from a mysterious man in their new home.

Cinematographer Hossein Jafarian does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as much of it is straightforward for many of the exterior scenes in the day and night with some stylish lighting for the theatrical scenes. Editor Hayedeh Safiyari does brilliant work with the editing as it play into the drama with some jump-cuts in some scenes as it relates to the suspense and drama. Art director Keyvan Moghaddam does amazing work with the look of the theater set for the play in its minimalist format as well as the look of the apartments that the characters live in.

Costume designer Sara Samiee does nice work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward with the exception of the look of the characters in what they wore for the play. Sound designer Mohammad Reza Delpak and sound editor Reza Narimizadeh do fantastic work with the sound in capturing the sparse atmosphere of the theaters as well as the sounds that occur in and out of the apartment as well as in the streets of Tehran. The film’s music by Sattar Oraki is superb for its mixture of string-based music and accordions as it is largely played in accompaniment for the play on the actual set.

The film’s wonderful cast include some notable small roles from Sam Valipour as an actress’ young son in Sadra, Mojtaba Pirzadeh as a delivery truck driver that Emad suspects, Mehdi Koushiki as an actress working on the play, Maral Bani Adam as the play’s director Kati, Emad Emami as Emad and Rana’s friend Ali, Mina Sadati as a neighbor, Babak Karimi as an actor named Babak who helps Emad and Rana find a new place to live, and Farid Sajadhosseini as an old man who might now about who assaulted Rana. Taraneh Alidoosti is incredible as Rana as a woman who is attacked while taking a shower as she becomes traumatized by what happened as she copes with the possibility of being attacked again. Finally, there’s Shahab Hosseini in a spectacular performance as Emad as a professor/actor who copes with the attack of his wife as he feels responsible for what happened as he becomes obsessed with finding her attacker and humiliate him in front of everyone where he also deals with the impact of his discovery.

The Salesman is a magnificent film from Asghar Farhadi that features phenomenal performances from Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti. Along with its ensemble cast, eerie premise, and usage of Death of a Salesman to parallel with its main story. The film is truly a gripping and rapturous drama that has elements of suspense as well as the study of a man’s obsession and his own faults in protecting his wife as it relates to the trials and tribulations of the man he plays in Arthur Miller’s play. In the end, The Salesman is an outstanding film from Asghar Farhadi.

Asghar Farhadi Films: (Dancing in the Dust) – (The Beautiful City) – (Fireworks Wednesday) – (About Elly) – A Separation - The Past - (Everybody Knows (2018 film))

© thevoid99 2018

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