Directed by Asghar Fahadi
Starring Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini, Babak Karimi
Film Review by Hannah Sayer
On Sunday the 26th February, the day of the Academy Awards ceremony, Sadiq Khan hosted an outdoor screening of Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman in London’s Trafalgar Square. With support from Curzon Artificial Eye and Amazon Studios, the free event was hosted by the Mayor of London in response to Farhadi’s refusal to attend the Academy Awards ceremony as a protest against Donald Trump’s travel ban and out of respect for his fellow Iranians affected by the ban. The screening was presented by Mariella Frostrup, with speeches from director Mike Leigh, actor Lily Cole as well as Sadiq Khan. Film industry figures who gave their backing to the event included actors Dominic West, Keira Knightley, Noomi Rapace and director Sarah Gavron.
Around 10,000 people attended the screening as a form of positive protest and a means of celebrating Iranian cinema in the face of adversity. Sadiq Khan emphasised to the crowds who gathered in Trafalgar Square that London is a diverse city that is open: “There are people here from Iran to Iraq, from Shoreditch and Streatham, from Lebanon and London - showing the world that London is open. Open to talent, open to creativity and open to people.”
The Salesman was awarded the Foreign Language Film Oscar at this year’s ceremony. Farhadi joins the company of renowned foreign language film directors after winning his second Academy Award, which includes Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman. He previously won the Academy Award in 2011 for A Separation.
The Salesman follows a young couple, Emad played by Shahab Hosseini and Rana played by Taraneh Alidoosti, who are performing the lead roles in a production of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. Their relationship is tested when they move into a new apartment as Rana is assaulted when someone breaks into their new home.
Farhadi constructs an expertly crafted study of trauma and its effects on Emad and Rana’s relationship, as Emad seeks revenge for what has happened to Rana. The Salesman is thought-provoking and is successful in focusing on the impacts of this traumatic event and how it affects the couple’s lives rather than focusing on the action of the incident. Farhadi’s use of prolonged and intense scenes evokes a feeling of dread throughout which is unsettling and develops a suspenseful atmosphere to the otherwise quite slow and performance driven narrative. The performances from Hosseini and Alidoosti are accomplished and never feel showy as the narrative moves from a mystery to revenge study which is suspenseful without feeling over exaggerated or cliché.
There is no question that The Salesman is an inferior film when compared to Farhadi’s previous masterpiece A Separation, yet The Salesman is still an intelligent and contemplative study and reflection of trauma and the devastating impacts it can have on victims and their relationships.
Farhadi sent a live video message to be played before the film to the crowds in Trafalgar Square where he expressed a poignant response to the politics surrounding his film’s release and the message of unity it has promoted amongst communities around the world: ‘I am extremely happy that the scattered reactions from people and art communities across the globe shown to the oppressive travel ban of immigrants has developed into a powerful and unified movement. Despite our different religions, cultures and nationalities, you are all citizens of the world and I will try to protect and spread this unity.’ The Salesman’s Academy Award win is certainly well-deserved and will no doubt be a film to be remembered for years to come.
The Salesman is now in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema.