Morality and revenge are closely examined in Asghar Farhadi’s latest film, The Salesman. They’re examined within a family whose move into a new apartment tragically invites violence into their lives. This kind of domestic shift isn’t new to Farhadi whose previous films, A Separation and The Past convey family dynamics crumbling due to loss, revenge, and guilt in the most subtle way that it becomes sort of a silent thriller – calm yet chilling. It’s a dichotomy that comes together beautifully and probably one of Farhadi’s best talents as director and writer.
We begin in an apartment building that is collapsing due to poor construction and the entire building is panicking to evacuate. We meet a young couple – Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) whose apartment is part of the collapse. Emad is a high school teacher who, along side his wife, stars in the Tehran local theater production, Death of a Salesman. Through connections with one of their theater troupe mates, they’re able to quickly find and move into a shabby but spacious apartment. The previous tenant has her belongings locked up in a room and they later find to their dismay, that this tenant was a prostitute. Things take a dark turn in Farhadi’s story when Rana gets attacked in the shower. The events that follow are a carefully planned/executed nightmare of paranoia and loneliness for Rana and guilt and vengeance for Emad.
Both characters exhibit a degree of humiliation and guilt after the violent event. Rana refuses to report this attack to the police, fearing having to explain the incident. She becomes paranoid and emotionally withdrawn from her husband. The story focuses on Emad, as he tries to cope with the situation. He struggles to meet his wife’s emotional needs while striving to find the stranger who attacked her. Emad’s personal struggle and path is conveyed in a natural day-by-day manner and pace that when he comes closer to finding the perpetrator that hurt his wife, we feel slightly uneasy as to what Emad’s plan is. We don’t really know what he has in mind during his manhunt and that’s what makes the final act of the film engrossing.
Revenge is set in an interesting context in that Emad manages to build the situation to his advantage. He has control of the situation and it triggers one to question the morality behind his actions and motives. We see that Emad is driving himself over the edge…but at the same time we understand his feelings. The quiet tension grows and lingers in the last scene is definitely engrossing to watch. Ultimately, it becomes a self-motivating mission that only creates a deeper rift with his wife. Farhadi’s film not only illustrates the conflicting and multi-faceted nature of revenge but how the ways in which issues are approached and dealt with affects your loved ones.
The Salesman is released in theaters in the US on January 27.