Picking up two awards at the Cannes film festival, for Best Screenplay and Best Actor (for Shahab Hosseini), Ashgar Farhadi’s latest movie ‘The Salesman’ tells the story of a middle-class couple who move into a new apartment.
What they don’t know is that all eyes in the neighbourhood are turned towards their new home because of its former occupant, a prostitute.
Farhadi took some time out during the shooting of his film to explain what his intention was when chosing the location.
“The story is linked to ‘The Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller. In the play, the flat is inhabited by a family and surrounded by the kind of tall buildings that were being built at the time in New York, to replace the old ones that were being torn down. I needed a set that showed how they were surrounded by buildings and ongoing construction work,” he explains. “If I had chosen a flat without a terrace, a balcony or a rooftop, you wouldn’t have had this sense of being surrounded all the time… There is a sense of insecurity and vulnerability that emanates from the outward appearance of this flat,” he said.
One day, the young woman opens the door thinking it is her husband and is violently attacked by one of the prostitute’s former clients. From then on, her husband is obsessed with finding the perpetrator. Crucially, the former lodger never reappears to pick up the belongings she left behind.
“At first, you saw the character of the prostitute, Ahou, in the film. Then she appeared less and less in each edited version, but her presence was strengthened by this absence,” Farhadi explained. “Never seeing her even though she was a centre piece of the story highlighted her importance. It makes the viewer curious about her. If you make her appear in a scene or if you even hear her, you limit the viewer’s imagination.”
After the internationally acclaimed and awarded ‘A Separation’ (Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, 2012), Farhadi proves once again he is a master storyteller, expertly weaving together the layers of this story on domestic tension which raises essential questions on the place of women in society, violence, vengeance and the morality of our actions.
‘The Salesman’ is released across Europe this autumn.