Saturday, April 01, 2017

Forushande / The Salesman

Forushandi / The Salesman. Shahab Hosseini (Emad) and Taraneh Alidoosti (Rana). Please click to enlarge the poster image.

فروشنده‎ / Le Client / The Salesman (Finnish title) / The Salesman (Swedish title). IR/FR © 2016 Memento Film Production / Asghar Farhadi Production / Arte France Cinéma.
Written and directed by: Asghar Farhadi
Director of photography: Hossein Jafarian
Editor: Hayedeh Safiyari
1st Assistant Director: Kaveh Sajadi Hosseini
Sound: In memory of Yadollah Najafi, Hossein Bashash
Music: Sattar Oraki
Cameraman: Peyman Shadmanfar
Sound Mixer: Mohammad Reza Delpak
Art Director: Keyvan Moghadam
Make-up artist: Mehrdad Mirkiani
Custom designer: Sara Samiee
Script supervisor: Parisa Gorgen
Still photographer: Habib Majidi
Production manager: Hassan Mostafavi
Producers: Alexandre Mallet-Guy, Asghar Farhadi
Produced by: Memento Films Production and Asghar Farhadi Production
In coproduction with Arte France Cinéma
In association with Memento Films Distribution - Doha Film Institute - arte france
Internationales sales: Memento Films international
Emad / Shahab Hosseini
Rana / Taraneh Alidoosti
Babak / Babak Karimi
The man / Farid Sajjadihosseini
Sanam / Mina Sadati
Kati / Maral Bani Adam
Siavash / Mehdi Kooshki
Ali / Emad Emami
Esmat / Shirin Aghakashi
Majid / Mojtaba Pirzadeh
Mojgan / Sahra Asadollahe
Mrs Shahnazari / Ehteram Boroumand
Sadra / Sam Valipour
    In Farsi.
    Released by Finnkino on DCP with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Tarja Sahlsten / Ditte Kronström.
    Viewed at Kinopalatsi 6, Helsinki, 1 April 2017.

The official synopsis: "Their old flat being damaged, Emad and Rana, a young couple living in Tehran, is forced to move into a new apartment. An incident linked to the previous tenant will dramatically change the couple's life."

AA: Another strong work from Asghar Farhadi, the latest film of his released in Finland after a great reception to A Separation and The Past. After the French-language The Past Farhadi now again shoots in Farsi in Tehran.

There is a meta-fictional context in the story as the couple Emad and Rana are playing Willy Loman and Linda Loman on the stage in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. The relationship between Miller's play and Farhadi's film is not obvious, but both share a complexity of approach and a sense of the pressure felt in middle-class life. What happens in real life starts to reflect on the performances of the play. And in the finale a surprising death of a real salesman takes place.

There is a building site next door. Safety measures are neglected, and the apartment house where Emad and Rana live starts to crumble. A new apartment is needed right away, and the actor colleague Babak offers help. The previous tenant has moved and in the available apartment a lot of her belongings remain. One night Emad has to stay at the theatre to meet the censors. Rana returns home, borrows Emad's keys and leaves the door open for him but in comes a stranger. She is found in a pool of blood in the shower and taken to the hospital by neighbours. It turns out that the previous tenant has been a prostitute with a number of customers. What has exactly happened remains a mystery.

When the traumatized Rana refuses to report the crime to the police Emad starts to make investigations of his own. The intruder has left his keys in the apartment, and as it turns out, his van on the street. Emad traces the owner of the van also used by his father-in-law, and in a surprise twist it turns out that the old father-in-law whose health is fragile is actually the perpetrator. He confesses and offers an apology to Rana, and Rana forgives him. Emad and Rana have already alerted his family, and then, taking the old man to a separate room, Emad goes one step too far. He passes to the old man an incriminating plastic bag with belongings he had left behind and slaps him on the face. Justice had already taken place, but now Emad crosses the boundary to revenge.

The moral complexity is on the same level as in Farhadi's previous films, as is the special kind of Iranian suspense which has been illuminatingly analyzed by David Bordwell. "What gives Iranian suspense films their weight is partly the fact that they don’t rely so much on the old standbys (chases, stalkings, cliffhanging rescues) but rather on psychological maneuvers, carried out largely through dialogue". "People stick up for themselves, and the suspense comes from a clash of testimonies, pleas, and self-justifications. But it also comes from a moral dimension." (Bordwell in Observations on Film Art, 11 April, 2011).

Characteristically for Iranian films, children had important roles in A Separation and The Past. In The Salesman Emad and Rana are childless, but Emad is a beloved teacher of literature for a class of teenage boys. Each schoolboy is seen as an individual, and there is a special pupil who seems to observe Emad as a model. He defends Emad after an incident at a shared taxi ride where a lady passenger unjustly suspects Emad. Emad hardly pays attention to the incident, thinking that the lady has had unpleasant experiences in the past. But when Emad disciplines a pupil for the use of a mobile phone and is about to breach his privacy the special boy intervenes, protecting both Emad and the pupil with the mobile phone.

Interestingly for film buffs the school class has been watching Darius Mehrjui's classic film Gaav / The Cow. We catch a glimpse of the scene where Mash Hassan has transformed into a cow. The film class sequence is symptomatic and universal about the short / zero attention span of contemporary viewers. Emad the teacher, exhausted because of his domestic crisis, has been sound asleep during the screening.

Shot digitally at high definition the image is hyperrealistically sharp.



Q: After making THE PAST in France and in French, why did you go back to Tehran for THE SALESMAN?

A: When I finished THE PAST in France, I started to work on a story that takes place in Spain. We picked the locations and I wrote a complete script, without the dialogue. We discussed about the project with the producers and main cast. But to get the whole team together would take a year, which, much to my delight, gave the the time to do a film in Iran. I wasn’t totally at ease with the idea of doing two films in a row abroad, and distancing myself from shooting in my own country. But now, all going well, I’ll get back to the Spanish project.

Q: How did this new project come about?

A: I’d been taking notes for this simple story that I’d had at the back of my mind for some time. When the chance to do a film in Iran came up, I started collecting all these scattered notes I’d been taking over the years. Besides that, I’ve always wanted to do a film that takes place in the world of theatre. I did theatre when I was younger, and it meant a lot to me. The story was ideally suited for the theatre milieu. So I started developing a scenario about characters putting on a play.

Q: How would you define THE SALESMAN? Is it a story of revenge or of lost honour?

A: I’d have real difficulty in defining or summarizing THE SALESMAN or even saying what this story means to me personally. Everything depends on the viewer’s own particular preoccupations and mindset. If you see it as social commentary, you’ll remember those elements. Somebody else might see it as a moral tale, or from a totally different angle. What I can say is that once again, this film deals with the complexity of human relations, especially within a family.

At the start of the film, Emad and Rana are an ordinary couple. Are these two characters typical of the Iranian middle class? Emad and Rana are a middle class Iranian couple. We can’t say they represent the majority of couples in this class as to their relations or as individuals. The characters were simply created so that the viewer doesn’t have the feeling this couple is any different from many others. It’s an ordinary couple with its own characteristics. They’re both in the cultural sphere and act in the theatre. But they find themselves in a situation that reveals unexpected aspects of their personalities.

Q: The original title of the film echoes that of the Arthur Miller play Emad and Rana are acting in with their friends. Why did you choose to use this work?

A: I read Death of a Salesman when I was a student. I was very struck by this play, probably because of what it says about human relationships. It’s a very rich play, offering multiple possible readings. The most important dimension is the social critique of a period in history when the sudden transformation of urban America caused the ruin of a certain social class. A category of people who couldn’t adapt to this rapid modernization got crushed. In that sense, the play resonates strongly with the current situation in my country. Things are changing at a breath-taking pace and it’s adapt or die.

The social critique at the heart of the play is still valid in our country today. Another dimension of the play is the complexity of social relations within the family, notably the couple composed of the salesman and Linda. The play has a strong emotional appeal, which as well as being very moving, makes the audience think about very subtle questions. Once I’d decided that the main characters in the film would belong to a theatre troupe and would be acting in a play, Miller’s work seemed to me very interesting, to the extent that it allowed me to establish a parallel with the personal life of the couple the film is built around.

On stage, Emad and Rana play the roles of the salesman and his wife. And in their own life, without realizing it, they are going to be confronted with a salesman and his family and have to decide on his fate.

Q: You evoke the anarchic development of Tehran through the view the characters have from the terrace of the new apartment. Is this your personal view of the city you live and work in?

A: Tehran today is very close to New York as described by Miller at the start of the play. A town whose face is changing at a heady pace, destroying everything that’s old, orchards and gardens, to replace them with towers. This is exactly the environment the salesman lives in. And it’s a new parallel between the film and the play. Tehran is changing in a frenetic, anarchic, irrational way. When a film tells the story of a family, the house obviously has a main role. That was already noticed in my previous films. This time again, the house and the city play a central role.


Asghar Farhadi was born in 1972. He made his first short film at age 13 in a youth cinema club and had made five short films before going to the University of Tehran in 1991 to study theatre, a choice that would influence his film making style significantly. He defended Harold Pinter’s work and the function of silence and pause in Pinter’s plays for his bachelor thesis. After he graduated, he continued his studies in stage direction at Tarbiat Modares University in 1996. Here he started writing radio plays, and then television series. After graduating with a masters in stage direction, he started work immediately directing television series he himself had written, A TALE OF CITY (DASTANE YEK SHAHR) being a typical example.

In 2002, he wrote and directed his first feature film, DANCING IN THE DUST (RAGHSS DAR GHOBAR). The film won awards for Best Actor at the 25th Moscow International Film Festival and the Russian Society of Film Critics’ Best Film award, and also won the Best Screenplay, Best Director at the 48th Asian Pacific Film Festival.

A year later, Asghar Farhadi made BEAUTIFUL CITY (SHAHRE ZIBA), a social genre which was a rarity at the time. It describes the conflict between two families, one of a murderer sentenced to death, the other of his victim. The victim’s family hold the fate of the 18 yearold murderer in their hands since they can accept to have the death sentence revoked. The film was released in France in 2012 and attracted attention in local and international festivals, winning several awards, including the Grand Prix at the Warsaw International Film Festival.

Farhadi’s next film was FIREWORKS WEDNESDAY (CHAHAR SHANBE SOURI) in 2005, which shone an uncompromising light on the stressed lifestyle of a middle class family through eyes of their maid and illustrated the double life of a family in society. Two years later, Asghar Farhadi made ABOUT ELLY (DARBAREYE ELLY), a film about a close group of young friends who take a vacation in the north of Iran. When one of them goes missing, it puts the group in a complicated situation and sets in motion an exciting drama. The film was screened for the first time at the Berlin International Film Festival and Fajr Film Festival simulateneously. It won the Silver Bear for Best Director in Berlin and the Crystal Simorgh for Best Directing in Fajr. In 2009 ABOUT ELLY was released in France and had over 100,000 admissions.

After the success of ABOUT ELLY, Asghar Farhadi started to write A SEPARATION (JODAEIYE NADER AZ SIMIN) which he started directing in 2010. Again the focus is on a middle class couple, whose marriage is on the rocks, and who, despite having a child, go through a divorce. The film attracted a wide audience from many different cultures and point of views.

A SEPARATION was screened at the Berlin Film Festival for the first time and broke an audience record that had stood for 60 years. The impact unprecedented, with the film taking the Golden Bear for Best Film, the Silver Bear for the ensemble of the actresses, director, writer and producer and the Silver Bear for the ensemble of the actors. This was only the beginning of a long list of prizes of over 70 awards internationally, including the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, the César for Best Foreign Film, and finally, the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

A Separation was an international success, unparalleled by any Iranian film. In France alone, the film chalked up one million admissions, the most widely-viewed Iranian film in that country, and was released in 250 theatres. The film was released in December 2011 in the United State, equalling the most successful foreign language films ever. In the same year, Asghar Farhadi was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.

Other awards won by A SEPARATION: Best Foreign Language Film at the Durban International Film Festival, Best Feature Film and Best Screenplay at the Asia Pacific Film Festival, Best Film at the Sydney Film Festival. While A SEPARATION was being screened in different festivals and countries, Asghar Farhadi and his family moved to Paris so he could start work on the screenplay of The PAST, a story that takes place outside of Iran. The main character, Ahmad, returns to Paris after a four-year absence to finalise the legal aspects of his divorce from Marie. Ahmad’s presence in Marie’s life after all this time creates a complicated situation for them, and forces them to dig into their common past.

The Past was released in 2013 in France at the same time as the Cannes Film Festival and again it had around one million admissions. It won the Best Actress Award at Cannes Festival and was nominated for Golden Globe and César.

After THE PAST, Asghar Farhadi started on a story to be shot in Spain, produced by Alexandre Mallet-Guy and Pedro Almodóvar. However, the project was delayed for a year so he decided to take advantage of this time to make THE SALESMAN in Iran.

A few months later, THE SALESMAN was selected in competition by Cannes, the second Farhadi film to be in the running for the Palme d’Or.

THE SALESMAN is the second film by Asghar Farhadi produced by Alexandre Mallet-Guy for Memento Films Production and their fifth film together in distribution. They first met in Berlin in 2009, where Alexandre Mallet-Guy had just discovered ABOUT ELLY.


Shahab Hosseini was born on February 3, 1974 in Tehran, Iran. His first collaboration with Asghar Farhadi was in ABOUT ELLY (2008), followed by A SEPARATION (2011). He received the Diploma of Honour from Fajr Film Festival and the Silver Bear from the Berlin film festival for his role as Hodjat in A SEPARATION. He has also received several nominations and awards from Iran’s House of Cinema, including Best leading actor for his performance in ABOUT ELLY. He directed his first film in 2014.

THE SALESMAN is his third film with Asghar Farhadi.

Selective filmography:
2016 THE SALESMAN by Asghar Farhadi - Official selection, Cannes Film Festival
MY BROTHER, KHOSROW by Ehsan Biglari
2015 SHAHRZAD (TV Series) by Hassan Fathi
GHOLAM by Mitra Tabrizian
WEDNESDAY by Soroush Mohammadzadeh
2013 THE PAI NTING POOL by Maziar Miri
2011 A SEPARATIO N by Asghar Farhadi
Silver Bear for Best Actor - Berlin Film Festival 2011
AFRICA by Hooman Seyyedi
2009 A BOUT ELLY … by Asghar Farhadi
2008 SUPER STAR by Tahmineh Milani - Best leading actor - Fajr Film Festival
2004 A CANDLE IN THE WIND by Pouran Derakhshandeh
2003 THE FIFTH REACTION by Tahmineh Milani
ROKHSAREH by Amir Ghavidel

TARANEH Alidoosti

Taraneh Alidoosti was born on January 12, 1984 in Tehran, Iran. She began acting in
2002 in Rasoul Sadrameli’s I AM TARANEH, I AM FIFTEEN YEARS OLD winning the
Silver Leopard at the 55th Locarno Film Festival and the Crystal Simorgh at the Fajr
Film Festival. Her second major role was in Asghar Farhadi’s BEAUTIFUL CITY (2004),
followed by Farhadi’s FIREWORKS Wednesday (2006) and ABOUT ELLY (2009).

THE SALESMAN is her fourth film with Asghar Farhadi.

Selective filmography:
2016 THE SALESMAN by Asghar Farhadi
Official selection, Cannes Film Festival
2015 SHAHRZAD (TV Series) by Hassan Fathi
2014 ABSOLUTE REST by Abdolreza Kahani
THE WEDLOCK by Rouhollah Hejazi
ATOMIC HEART by Ali Ahmadzade
2013 THE SHALLOW YELLOW SKY by Bahram Tavakoli
2012 MO DEST RECEPTION by Mani Haghighi – best actress
on Asian and Arab competition award
2009 A BOUT ELLY … by Asghar Farhadi
2008 SHIRIN by Abbas Kiarostami
CANAAN by Mani Haghighi
2006 FIRE WORKS WEDNESDAY by Asghar Farhadi
2004 BEAUTIFUL CITY by Asghar Farhadi
2002 I AM TARA NEH, I AM FIFTEEN YEARS OLD by Rasoul Sadrameli
Silver Leopard on the 55th Locarno Film Festival and the Cristal Simorgh
on Fajr Film Festival


Emad and Rana are a married couple who both work in the theatre, currently starring in a production of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, with Emad portraying Willy Loman and Rana playing Linda. Emad is also a popular instructor at a local school, where the youth joke about him being a "salesman." One night, their apartment begins to collapse and they flee the building with the other residents. Desperate to find a place to live, their fellow actor Babak secures another apartment for them, where a female tenant has just moved out. One night, Rana is home alone and begins bathing. When Emad returns, he finds she is missing and the bathroom is covered with blood. He rushes to the hospital, where he is informed by his neighbours about his wife's condition and told to change the apartment's locks. It becomes apparent that Rana has not had an accident, but has been assaulted by an intruder. Emad also learns from neighbours that the previous tenant was a prostitute, who occasionally had conflicts with her clients.

Rana returns home, but suffers from trauma and no complaint is filed with the police. She does not bathe, fearing to go into the bathroom again, and in the middle of a performance, breaks down in tears and leaves the stage. Although she does not remember the face of her attacker, Emad finds the culprit left his van and a mobile phone outside of the building. The attacker also left behind money //AA add: which Emad has found on a shelf and put // in a drawer, which Rana purchased groceries with, thinking Emad had left it for her for that purchase. While searching for a new apartment, Emad becomes angry with Babak, at one point calling his character Charley a degenerate in the midst of a performance, although this was not in Miller's script.

Finally, Emad turns to one of his students, whose father policed traffic. He is able to trace the van to a man named Majid. Emad consults Majid's father-in-law, who protests that the van frequently changes owners. Gradually, it becomes apparent the father-in-law was himself the intruder, though he denies intent on attacking a woman, saying he thought there was a man in the bathroom. Emad calls the old man's family to the apartment, intending to reveal his true character to them all. Seeing the miserable old man who begs for her forgiveness, Rana no longer feels fear or animosity and demands that Emad gives up his own wish for revenge, going as far as threatening to leave Emad if he would mortally shame the old man by revealing to his family what he had done. By the time the family arrives, the old man is facing health issues, and the family believes they have been called to a medical emergency, thanking Emad for saving his life. They are about to leave, but Emad insists on taking the old man to the other room, and once they are alone he //AA add: gives him a plastic bag with his money and other belongings perhaps even including condoms and // slaps him, causing the old man to have a second episode. It is left unclear whether he survived – and though Rana and Emad afterwards return to the theatre for more performances, whether their marriage would survive.


Timo said...

Vähäinen täsmennys: persiankielinen nimi on فروشنده eli Forušande (ääntyy melko tarkkaan [forušände], paino viimeisellä tavulla). Sana tarkoittaa yksinkertaisesti 'kauppias'.

Tuntuu pahalta, että iranilaista elokuvaa markkinoidaan Suomessa englanninkielisellä nimellä. Hieno elokuva, joka ei osoittele vaikka ehkä vihjaakin pienissä yksityiskohdissa ohjaajan näkemystä. Lopullisia ratkaisuja ei ehkä ole, tulkitsin.

Antti Alanen said...

Timo, kiitos, korjasin persiankielisen nimen!