Asghar Farhadi deserves to be a household name for anyone who claims to love movies. Despite a relatively small filmography, Farhadi has created some of the most magnificently plotted stories consistently grounded in truthful human experience. Add to it a keen technical eye for visual composition that quite frankly is unmatched by most.
Sadly Farhadi still remains an unknown name to too many. His latest picture “The Salesman” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film yet his accomplishment was somewhat drowned out by political posturing and wrangling. I actually heard him casually referred to as “that Iranian director who skipped the Oscars”. That’s a shame.
In reality Farhadi is a modern day cinematic master of his craft. “The Salesman” is yet another superbly made film that may not be considered his best, but must every work be compared to another?
“The Salesman” is laced with Farhadi signatures – thorough yet carefully developed characters, strong human and cultural sensibilities, a deeply buried truth boiling under the surface. It’s a template that fits flawlessly with Farhadi’s writing and directing. Here again we see him methodically peeling back layers that reveals faults and arouses suspicions and not only from the characters. We the audience find ourselves being influenced by our impulses to judge.
The film focuses on a married couple, Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) and Emad (Shahab Hosseini). After an earth-shaking mishap threatens the stability of their apartment building, Rana and Emad are forced to find a new place to stay. The two are helped by a friend and fellow stage performer who shows them a place recently vacated. Problem is the previous tenant has left behind a room full of personal belongings.
As with most films the less you know the better, but suffice it to say the story is jolted by a particular event than splinters the narrative in several different directions. Some are diversions, some are unexpected revelations. Regardless Farhadi never loses his focus of navigating through the dense human elements revealed through the testy circumstances.
Farhadi doesn’t work in caricatures or stereotypes. He creates living, breathing people which make his stories all the more compelling. He allows his characters the space to think, mull, and wrestle internally. Hossein Jafarian’s stellar cinematography is equally vital in relaying the subtle ferocity of emotions that intensify as the story plays out. It also helps to have Alidoosti and Hosseini, two Farhadi regulars in sync with the director’s vision.
There is an fabulous running parallel between the main story and Rana and Emad’s work at a small theater production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”. Farhadi’s skillful treatment is anything but pointless and helps to prod our minds to think more about the film’s meaning. The same could be said for the bulk of his films. They don’t follow any conventional norm or standard. Instead they dwell in realities we all can recognize and demand their audiences to engage them on those levels. “The Salesman” is another example of how engrossing that can be.
VERDICT – 4.5 STARS
Nice review Keith. As you know, I’m a big fan of Farhadi and think he’s one of the best filmmakers working today, and even though I did really like The Salesman, I’m not sure if it was quite up there with A Separation or About Elly (though that’s a very high standard). But despite I would have preferred to have seen Toni Erdmann take the Oscar, I was still very pleased Farhadi won.
I completely agree. As I mentioned I wouldn’t consider this among his best. But it testifies to his greatness when a film not as good as some of his best is still worthy of high marks. I knew right off the bat that I wouldn’t consider this among A Seperation, About Elly, and even The Past (which I happen to really love). But I get it unfair to compare it to those and when I started looking at it without comparing it I had to rate it high.
Farhadi is so underrated- you’re right. I haven’t seen this yet, but I’m familiar with his work. About Elly was the first foreign language film I ever saw and I thought it was a masterpiece. I look forward to seeing this as well as A Separation. Wonderful review, insightful as always!
Thanks so much. About Elly is one heck of an introduction to foreign cinema. You should also check out “The Past”. It didn’t get as much love as Farhadi’s other pictures but it is well worth seeing. I love it too.
I really found A Separation to be such an eye opening and find movie. He’s a director who clearly knows how to make things realistic. Will keep my eye out for this one. Nice review Keith.
Great to hear. Farhadi is a genius when it comes to human-level storytelling. Can’t recommend him enough.
He brings a lot of realism that it feels like you are watching genuine people.
True. His characters are always genuine.
It feels like your almost watching a documentary because of the level of realism and lack of gloss he brings.
Great review! I watched this myself a few days ago and enjoyed it too. I need to see more of his work as I’ve only seen this and A Separation.
Yes! Seek out About Elly. I absolutely love it. Also a big fan of The Past.
This has been in my list since long. Need.to tick this off soon.
It’s a good one. Hopefully you can see it soon. I have loved every Farhadi film I have seen.
He is a master storyteller and extracts the best from his actors. Even the child artists stand out. Excellent review!
So true. One of the best filmmakers of our time. Love his work!