Review: The Salesman — A suspenseful, thought-provoking Oscar-winner

Taraneh Alidoosti Shahab Hosseini the salesman movie still

The Salesman / Forušande

Movie review

Directed and written by Asghar Farhadi (The Past, A Separation), The Salesman is the winner of Best Foreign Language Film in the 89th Academy Award which tells the story of a couple, Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), who move into a new apartment. On one of the first few days after moving in, Rana is assaulted by an unknown intruder when she’s alone at the place. Traumatised by the incident, she is reluctant to report it to the police but Emad feels the need to seek justice.

With subtle symbolisms and a Putlizer-winning play within the story, the Iranian film is quite an artsy picture but it can be easily relatable and watchable to even general audiences as the subject is not an uncommon issue in many different parts of the world and furthermore, the film is a highly realistic human drama with a bit of whodunit thrills that’s very suspenseful, intense and thought-provoking.

The couple, Emad and Rana, are well defined as this ordinary middle-class couple working at the theatre who’re currently starring in a production of Death of a Salesman, a popular classic play written by Arthur Miller in 1949, which also serves to help establish the profound parallels between the characters and their roles by showing them acting on stage in a few scenes.

Taraneh Alidoosti the salesman movie still

Emad is a calm, composed and kindhearted person who’s also a likable teacher in his class at a school while Rana is a quiet but straightforward person and usually looks unimpressed. But the traumatic event affects their relationship, gradually consumes their life and drastically changes their usual behaviour. Shabab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti’s engaging portrayals of their respective roles are absolutely perfect and the film probably wouldn’t have worked without them.

I could feel their fear, pain, frustration, need for closure. It makes me put myself in their shoes and think, what would I do? Would I report to the police even though my wife refused to? Would I track down the pervert myself and be extremely cruel to him for revenge? Would I forgive him if he admits it? Should he or she be reacting or make decisions like that? It’s a compelling moral dilemma. These are true issues that I believe some real-life victims and their loved ones actually face.

Almost every scene is played out by the actors shot in single-take tracking style or with minimal cuts and no background music, and with the brilliant performances, the characters feel 100% real. This is something we don’t get in most movies and I don’t think it’s noticed or appreciated enough by moviegoers. The only real problem I had with the film is its ending which not only I disagree with, but also felt that there could’ve been more to it after all that screen time invested in showing characters doing scenes from the play. The payoff in the end isn’t as impactful as I was expecting it to be.

Shahab Hosseini the salesman movie still

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What I would’ve named the film: “Why One Does Not Simply Open the Door”

Malaysian censorship: Doubt any scene needed to be censored.

Verdict: I personally liked Asghar Farhadi’s other Oscar-winning film, A Separation (ranked 2nd in my Top 10 Films of 2011 list), more but The Salesman is still great drama thriller that I’d recommend anyone to watch.

Rating: 4 / 5

* In respect of the subject and the film, no meme was created with the review.

the salesman gsc movie poster malaysiaCountry / Language: Iran / Persian

Genre: Drama thriller
Running Time: 124 minutes
Director-writer: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini, Babak Karimi

Malaysia Release Date: 27 July 2017 (GSC International Screens only)
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: GSC Movies
Production: Memento Films Production, Asghar Farhadi Production, Arte France Cinéma

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