Review / ‘The Salesman’ (PG) *** and a half

IRANIAN filmmakers have a justifiable reputation for beautiful storytelling that looks at corners of the human condition.

I remember fondly films such as “The Runner”, “The Olive Tree”, “The White Balloon” and others.

Times change. Iran’s filmmakers are taking themes from a wider landscape in a changed political environment. Writer/director Asghar Farhadi, an Oscar nominee in 2011 for “A Separation”, earlier this month won the Foreign Language Oscar for “The Salesman”.

Married couple Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), while rehearsing an amateur production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”, become obliged to move to a new apartment, where the previous tenant, a sex worker, received clients. One evening, Emad arriving home late finds Rana lying on the bathroom floor bleeding from a head wound.

Those passages are the platform from which the film’s latter half tells what happens when Rana’s attacker is revealed. He’s a man in late middle age, a visitor to the previous tenant, with a plump wife whose physical appeal has surrendered to age and domesticity, thereby providing an understandable, however indefensible, motive for his infidelity.

Emad wants to beat him up. Rana wants merely to send him away and forget the whole awful experience in her own way. But the old fellow collapses and it becomes necessary to summon both his family and an ambulance. In these passages, occupying about the final quarter of the film, Farhadi examines issues confronting people who have done nothing wrong and need protecting from uncomfortable truths.

“The Salesman” is intense, not over-burdened with light-heartedness or humour. Which does not detract from its emotional strength and essential humanity. By any measure, it does honour to Iran’s cinematic tradition.

At Palace Electric and Capital 6

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