Without it yet being an actual problem, watching this felt like Asghar Farhadi has become a bit too self-aware, dangerously close to falling into the black hole of his own creativity. A tad too stylized, a lashing too structured, The Salesman is still a profoundly personal movie, anthropocentric to almost a fault without ever crossing that line; a fine balance the filmmaker has proven to be masterful at keeping.
The story is simple, held elegantly against the backdrop of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman; a play in which our heroes are portraying the main characters as a recreational activity. The protagonists’ plight is being juxtaposed with that of Willy’s and Linda’s, elevating the sudden darkness befalling their happiness to an allegory pertaining the small; those innocuous details that can either support or break a union in the aftermath of a domestic crisis.
Much like Willy’s burden of mediocrity, Emad is being defined by his own perceived inability to successfully tend to his wife, Rana, in the aftershock of an attack that quickly adorns their skin with wrinkles of instability. Cracks appear, on their walls of their home, the build of their marriage, the very foundation of his mental equilibrium and in the process of his wife’s healing, the tables are slowly being turned.
Rana lifts her chin in subtle pride as she dusts the burden of self-pity off her bruised shoulders and ventures to reestablish herself in a state of weightless normalcy. All the while, Emad seems to be caving under the pressure of his own contradicting duality — a man who desperately seeks to regain control of a suddenly derailed life, a husband needing to protect, shield and amend in vengeful anger while, simultaneously, mending in kindness, fear, and worry. Two people journeying through life side by side are now being torn to opposite poles in a way subepidermal enough to have you fearing for their relationship without even realizing at what point exactly you reached that emotional status.
Farhadi’s signature move, it would seem.
My personal gripe. The Salesman cuts deep without pushing — a beautiful movie featuring some stellar acting by almost everyone involved, no argument there. However, and much to my disappointment, I found it falling short during the third act.
Emad’s inner turmoil leads to many spasmodic, irrational reactions from the beginning of the tale but during the last part of the film, the character becomes unrealistic, like the final scene had been already filmed and Farhadi needed to mold something out of nothing to just get us there.
Underwhelming finish aside, the overall outcome is still worth of tremendous praise, even if, for some of you who might end up sharing my views, it finishes not in thunderous applause but a thoughtful sigh of contentment.