The stage is set, the players are ready, and the audience has arrived—but just off stage, life waits in the wings. The Salesman (Forushande), Iran’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film, takes you into the heart of a community seldom seen with such warmth and emotion. Centered on a married couple, Rana and Emad, who are also the leads in a local theater rendition of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman; we follow them as they cope with unexpected tragedy in the face of a transforming nation. The Salesman (Forushande) premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival
From the start, director Asghar Farhadi makes a bold statement by focusing on telling his story through the lens of a stage performance. Farhadi does this by opening with starkly beautiful shots of lights being adjusted on the Death of a Salesman set as they prepare for the premier. Then with complete immediacy, the viewer is transported to crisis at the house of Rana and Emad. A bulldozer has begun to dig out the foundation of their apartment building with the people still inside. Despite the immediate danger, this scene does well to illustrate the compassion between residents as they help one another to evacuate. Thus informing the viewer on Rana and Emad’s support system and the ways in which the community comes together in crisis.
It’s in these two opening scenes that the key to Farhadi’s cinematic map can be found. A key that will unlock the deeper nuances of the tragedy Emad and Rana must face later in the film. Consider the juxtaposition of a play, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, one that is know to be historic denunciation of capitalism, against a crumbling complex with the citizens still inside being destroyed to make way for something new to be built. Though this metaphor does well to expand upon it’s point in an engaging and ever heightening way to bring it all to a jaw-dropping climactic final scene; it is just one side of what makes The Salesman (Forushande) such an affecting and well made film.
Cinematography by Hossein Jafarian, with its quiet ageing beauty, shines an intimate light on every broken building and encounter. The cast of this film couldn’t have done a better job; supporting roles are filled out with such sincerity and heart, no moment ever feels forced. Leads Taraneh Alidoosti, who plays Rana, and Shahab Hosseini, who plays Emad, work brilliantly together and apart to give their characters every move potent and lasting nuance. Alidoosti and Hosseini have captured, by far, my favorite performances of this year. Hosseini received the award for Best Actor at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. The Salesman (Forushande) is a beautiful work of art that deserves your attention. Take sometime in the coming days to go to a theatre and watch this modern Iranian masterpiece.