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article imageReview: ‘The Salesman’ discovers justice can have its own consequences Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Feb 3, 2017 in Entertainment
‘The Salesman’ is Iran’s 2017 Oscar-nominated foreign language film about a couple that faces the ultimate test of loyalty and forgiveness after an unprovoked assault.
No matter how long or solid a relationship, many find it difficult to survive a trauma. The stress to deal with it and get past it can be unbearable; particularly if one person is more readily able to do so than the other. This uneven response to their shared experience can foster resentment on both sides and cause them to slowly drift apart. In The Salesman, audiences are introduced to a couple who have trouble coping with the aftermath of a home invasion.
Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Zana (Taraneh Alidoosti) are starring in a local production of Death of a Salesman in the evenings. When their building is condemned, a friend offers them a recently vacated apartment he manages; the neighbours are friendly and looking forward to more modest tenants since the last one was a bit unreserved. However shortly after moving in, Zana is attacked while Emad is out. Although her injuries are superficial, the affect it has on them and their relationship grows deeper. In spite wanting to forget the incident, Zana’s PTSD and fear of being alone is a constant reminder; and her suffering makes Emad desperate to do something, which is in conflict with her desire to ignore it.
Zana wants nothing more than to keep the attack a secret as she feels somewhat to blame and wants to avoid the humiliation of recounting it. However, confidentiality is nearly impossible as so many people were made aware at the outset that word travels quickly within their circle. Consequently, the moroseness with which everyone asks after Zana repeatedly prompts Emad to remember the severity of the incident, which compels him to take action. He gathers evidence and prepares to go to the police, but she refuses to talk to them. Therefore, the only way he can reconcile his need for justice is to conduct his own investigation and track down the perpetrator himself — a course of action with unforeseen results.
Emad’s downward trajectory is reflected in Willy Loman’s demise in the production. Loman grows increasingly desperate and hysterical when all his attempts for a decent paycheque fail and he faces going home empty-handed. While Emad remains relatively calm, his obsession with finding his wife’s assailant slowly begins to consume him. It becomes clear he won’t be able to rest until he finds him; though succeeding doesn’t bring him the satisfaction for which he’d hoped.
The narrative is filled with ambiguity, effectively putting the audience in the same atmosphere of uncertainty and confusion as the characters. Likewise, the genuine performances by the actors draw viewers into the mystery and their strained relationship. The final scene in the film seems somewhat superfluous, but it provides an unparalleled glimpse into the state of their marriage before the curtain closes on Academy Award-winning director Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-nominated film.
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Starring: Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini and Babak Karimi
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