The Salesman – Revenge, Forgiveness, and Arthur Miller

I have been a fan of Asghar Farhadi since we showed his Academy Award nominated film, A Separation, a couple of years ago.  The film’s powerful characters, compelling story, and intense drama reminded me of the power of film.  When we had the opportunity to book Farhadi’s latest film, The Salesman, I was quick to put it on the schedule.  And the film doesn’t disappoint.  The Salesman is nominated for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award and has already won over 80 awards from other films festivals.  

It is a powerful drama that on the surface is the story of a young couple whose peaceful lives are disrupted by a tragedy in Iran, but below the surface, The Salesman speaks to many themes much more complicated.  At its heart, the movie is a morality play which examines the power of revenge and forgiveness, as well as offering an honest and revealing look at society and culture in modern Iran. Adding another level to the film is Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, which is also a backdrop for the film.

The Salesman begins with a young couple, Emad and Rana, a teacher and his wife who are also starring in a production of Miller’s Death of a Salesman.  We first see them on stage in rehearsals for the play.  Then their normal life is interrupted and they are forced to find a new place to live.  Luckily a cast member has a vacancy in a place he rents and offers it to the couple.  What seems a stroke of good luck is actually where the problems begin.  Soon after they move in an incident happens — I won’t spoil anything — but it leaves Rana injured and Emad searching for the perpetrator.  Both of them struggle with how to deal with what has happened, but in very different ways.  As they try to come to terms the event and how it is affecting them, we see the increasing tension and distance start to appear in their relationship.  These changes seem most evident at the rehearsals for the production.  The play becomes the one place they actually communicate. As Emad’s quest for revenge builds, we are drawn into the differences between how he and his wife are dealing with this tragedy.  What follows leads us to a gripping and explosive final act.

The Salesman is filled with outstanding acting, but Shahab Hosseini (Emad) and Taraneh Alidoosti (Rana) present their characters with exceptional power and complexity.  And as they struggle to reach some sort of closure about what has happened, their performances become more and more compelling.  I can’t say that the production of Death of a Salesman and Emad’s role as Willie Loman parallels his emotional journey.  In fact, in many ways, he is the opposite of the character, but the production provides an outlet for the characters’ emotion, and it may be that Willie and Linda’s collapse in the play shadows the collapse of Rana and Emad’s life as well.  In the end, we are left with fewer answers than we want, but wiser for the journey.

The Salesman is in Persian with English subtitles and runs 2 hours and 5 minutes.

Read the press release.
Watch the trailer.

Erik Alberg
Technical Director for Events and Conferences Office

Our 2017 Winter Film Series

The marketing slogans are easy. “Films to Heat Up Your Winter.” “Four Ways to Beat Cabin Fever.” “Cold Weather, Hot Popcorn, Great Movies — The Perfect Mix.”

Those did not make the cut. Actually, we rarely have a catchy slogan as we think the films sell themselves. Our unofficial slogan for this next series of films is “the solid series” — a variety of films, all different, all strong.

Loving
Jan. 30- Feb. 4, 2017 — 7:30pm

loving_onesheetThis movie was named the number three film of the year by Time Magazine, despite the fact that it was out on limited release. This fictionalized drama is based on the true story of the incredibly named Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial married couple who took their battle to be legally recognized all the way to the Supreme Court. That it took until 1967 to have this happen makes the story even more amazing. The film is raking in award nominations and Manohla Dargis of The New York Times says “There are few movies that speak to the American moment as movingly — and with as much idealism — as Jeff Nichols’s Loving.”

Watch the preview.

The Salesman
Feb. 13-18, 2017 — 7:30pm

Here we offer an Iranian-French film by Academy-award winning directorthe salesman image Asghar Farhadi. (He won the Oscar for A Separation which we showed 2012).  An Iranian couple rehearsing for a performance in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” have to move to a new apartment. But the previous occupant’s past intercedes with their present, turning their lives inside out. Taking Best Actor and Best Screenplay awards at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Farhadi’s latest film adds to his legacy. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian calls it “smart, ambitious…a well-crafted, valuable drama” and Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter says it “leaves the viewer tense and breathless.”
Watch the preview.

The Eagle Huntress
March 13-18, 2017 — 7:30pm

Just watch the preview and dare to miss this movie! The cinematography alone makes this a big-screen must, but the story of 13-year-old Aisholpan working to become the first female eagle hunter in twelve generations just adds to acclaimed documentary. This has the big themes — coming of age, women’s (girl’s) rights, the beauty of nature, the clash of ancient traditions and modern life, and, a glimpse into a culture few of us know. Receiving rave reviews, both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times named it a “Critic’s Pick,” with the NY Times saying it is “Thrilling! A movie that expands your sense of what is possible.”

Watch the preview.

Things to Come
March 27-April 1, 2017 — 7:30pm

Her husband is leaving her for another woman, her mother dies, and her professional life as a philosopher is in turmoil. Well, this sounds like a crazy comedy or a French film. And the winner is…French film! This unlikely plot line has a 100% rating by over 70 critics on Rotten Tomatoes and stars the incomparable Isabelle Huppert as the woman who decides not to fold under the challenges, but instead reinvent her life. Time Magazine says “Huppert is extraordinary—she reveals everything even when you think she’s showing nothing—and she’s the perfect actress, right now, for Hansen-Løve’s (director) fine-grained perceptiveness.” Time Out calls it “warm, thoughtful, surprising.”
Watch the preview.

We think you’ll agree that this is an incredible line up of films, likely to be heard about for years to come. We’ll feature each of these individually on the blog shortly before we show them, but please check out the trailers. And, tell your friends! You are the best advertisement we have for our unique film series. Thank you for supporting us and great films.

 

Derek Emerson
Hope College Director of Public Affairs and Events