The Salesman

Iranian director Asgar Fahardi won his second Oscar for this fine exploration of middle class values, which looks at a couple in Tehran whose life implodes while they’re working together on an amateur stage production of Death of a Salesman.

Again those Haneke-style tropes are deployed when their apartment shudders – it’s an earthquake or something to do with nearby excavations – and cracks appear in the walls and windows (I was also reminded of Babak Anvari’s recent Tehran-set horror Under the Shadow – one of the characters here is even called Babak).

The couple, Emad and Rana, are forced to move into a new apartment, where the previous tenant has left quite a few of her possessions. Turns out, this tenant was a prostitute and, one night, this has disastrous consequences when a former client enters the flat, unaware of the change of tenancy.

In the ensuing scuffle, Rana is injured and badly shaken. When Emad returns, he too finds his world shaken, wounded by the affront to his wife and to his reputation.

Unwisely, he becomes obsessed in tracking down the intruder, refusing to go the police and taking on detective and avenger duties himself, all of which consumes him and tears him up inside, much as playing Willy Loman every night also does.

Fahardi expertly balances the fact and fiction till they bleed into each other. It’s a cracked mirror held up to society, arrowing in on masculinity, shame, honour and secrets. Shahab Hosseini is powerful as Emad, though a little broad for my tastes – Taraneh Alidoosti is terrific as Rana, though, and she becomes the movie’s emotional core during the wrenchingly tense finale. A deserved Oscar winner, and you can see why American voters went for it.

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