Domestic fault lines

16 March 2017 | by Anthony Quinn

The Salesman director: Asghar Farhadi


Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian director, unfolds his intricate moral thrillers with the precision of a bomb disposal expert. The audience watches in fear of the plot going off in its face. Farhadi is best known for A Separation, an Oscar winner in 2012, though I rated the one before, About Elly, even higher. Like those films, The Salesman peeks beneath an apparently sturdy middle-class unit to find hairline cracks and flaws, partly the result of its uneasy relationship with a repressive government. Those cracks become alarmingly physical in the film’s opening scene as a quaking Tehran apartment building is evacuated in panic: the construction diggers next door have undermined its foundations.

Among the fleeing occupants are a married couple, Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), the lead actors in a production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. One of the cast recommends them an apartment to rent, and the couple move in. “For once it looks like we’re in luck,” says Emad, speaking too soon.

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