The Salesman (Ir) ⭐⭐⭐

A couple moves into an apartment that unbeknown to them was occupied by a less than honorable woman (code for prostitute) and the wife is attacked by someone who might have mistaken her for the previous tenant. All this takes place while a theatre company, in which the couple are the leads, are in final rehearsal for a production of Death of A Salesman. Set in writer-director, Asghar Farhadi’s home country of Iran and similar to his previous film, A Separation, which is admittedly better and more engaging, we see another marriage being tested under a set of stressful circumstances. This time, though, it is slightly meandering and sometimes narratively baffling (at least when filtered through our more Western eyes) but nevertheless it is an observant and fascinating film that explores the themes of guilt, shame and forgiveness in a male dominated Muslim society and won him a second Oscar for Movie in a Foreign Language (deservedly beating Toni Erdmann but Land of Mine from Denmark trumps both in my opinion). The couple’s cultural and intellectual backgrounds give them a sense of modernity that contrast with their more conventional and in the husband’s case, primal, reactions. Though I am not convinced how much depth and poignancy the juxtaposition of Arthur Miller’s play adds to the film and a simpler narrative structure might have been more effective. The middle section sags and works less well than the final section when the culprit is revealed and confronted in a claustrophobic and very theatrical setting, re-energising the film just in time for the powerful, melodramatic and gripping ending.

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