When I spoke with Asghar Farhadi during the Mill Valley Film Festival on October 14, 2016 about THE SALESMAN, one of us (me) fully anticipated that it, like his Oscar™-winning film A SEPARATION, would be nominated for an Oscar™. Neither of us could have anticipated that when it was, in fact, nominated, Farhadi would not be allowed entry into this country to attend the ceremony because of an Executive Order banning travel to this country by Iranians.
It’s just wrong.
I started our interview by asking when he had noticed the correlation between Arthur Miller’s New York, and contemporary Iran. We went on to discuss gender issues in Iran, why there are so many cats in the film, and why the timing of his Oscar™ win was perfect,
We finished up with Farhadi paying tribute to his filmmaker wife; the reaction THE SALESMAN’s co-star Taraneh Alidoosti received at home and abroad for showing her feminist tattoo at Cannes; and catharsis in both the theater and in life.
His film follows a couple. Emad and Rana (Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti), as they stage Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman amid a variety of physical and emotional turmoil in their private lives. Things begin to fall apart metaphorically when the building in which they live does so literally, followed by a home invasion when Rana is alone. The resulting obsessive need for revenge on Emad’s part further traumatizes Rana, and eventually pushes Emad over moral lines he could never have considered crossing before. Rendered with a compassionate touch, and a visceral emotional resonance, THE SALESMAN explores the darkest part of the human psyche without resorting to such simplistic labels as heroes and villains. Farhadi directed from his own script, and his previous work includes the ci-mentioned A SEPARATION, the first Iranian film to win the Foreign Language Oscar™, as well as the equally brilliant THE PAST and ABOUT ELLY.