Starring: Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti, Babak Karimi
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Running Time: 123 mins
The Salesman (فروشنده) is an Iranian film about a married couple who move into a new apartment, however upon learning of the life of the previous tenant, their lives take a dramatic and shocking turn.
From Asghar Farhadi, director of the brilliant drama A Separation, comes a film that features equally striking storytelling in what seems like a very ordinary context, however one that doesn’t quite have the intense dramatic power to keep you fully enthralled right the way through.
Farhadi’s style is often reminiscent of the likes of Michael Haneke, in his ability to craft high drama and emotion out of situations that seem almost entirely normal on the outside, and that’s what he tries to do in The Salesman, with initially engrossing results, albeit failing to keep up that same intensity and excitement as the film takes a series of darker turns.
As a result, I can definitely say that the film gets off to a brilliant start. If you’ve seen A Separation, then you’ll know what sort of drama is on the horizon, and the tension and build-up over the first half an hour makes for a captivating beginning, throwing ideas and vague clues around as to what’s actually going on as the young couple uncover a strange situation as they move into their new apartment.
The tension continues building right the way through the first act, and is eventually released with a thrilling and devastating turn of fate, paving the way for the series of events through the rest of the film. Initially, the film’s darker, more intense drama and themes make for fascinating viewing, particularly when it comes to a portrayal of the effects of shock and grief, as the couple try to get their lives back to normal after a brief but devastating incident.
However, while the aftermath of that early twist proves initially captivating, The Salesman unfortunately gets itself into a little bit of a rut with the following two acts, as the husband’s search for answers see him take on a fairly repetitive and rather simple task, and the dramatic intensity and tension of the early stages isn’t replicated in any way, even when things become a lot darker.
The second and third acts of The Salesman reminded me a lot of Revanche, a slow and methodical drama that aims to bring justice and circularity to an incident from earlier in the story, but much like Revanche, The Salesman just doesn’t do enough to really hit home with its emotional drama, and I found it difficult to fully get to grips with the struggles of the main character as his story takes a darker direction.
Overall, The Salesman certainly has the drama and intrigue to make for an engaging watch, with a striking opening act that works in the same vein as A Separation, however it fails to capitalise on an enthralling and dramatically intense beginning and early twist, falling into a rather repetitive and underwhelming rut over the course of the final two acts, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3.