Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Salesman: Monday, February 6 2017

The Salesman is written and directed by Persian filmmaker, Asghar Farhadi. He has already won many awards, and this film is no exception. It was nominated for a Golden Globe under the Best Foreign Film category. It is also nominated for an Oscar. The writing and direction are highly professional, and the film is gripping. The acting is fantastic, which makes the characters unforgettable. Everything about this film is of a high standard, which is always enjoyable in itself.

Also of great interest is the insight it gives the audience into life in Iran, and the psychology of people who live there. Farhadi has the reputation of creating films that examine the culture of his country, Iran, and its people, the Persians.

The contrast between how Iranians deal with rape, and how people in North America would react, is intense. In North America, the police consider rape a physical assault. The woman assaulted could call the police, who would be with her within a short time. She would be interviewed by a woman policewoman, who would probably take her to hospital to have a rape test done, as evidence of the physical assault. Ideally, she would be treated with sympathy and respect. In Iran, it is still considered a sexual act. In the film, no actual acknowledgement of what has happened is put forward, and the incident can hardly be discussed. The woman has been sexually violated; she is held suspect, and doesn't want to go to the police. She wants it forgotten as quickly as possible.

In the film, the rapist states that he was tempted, and expects everyone to understand that, even although he is an old, married man, he couldn't resist his strong, natural sexual drive. The victim forgives him, and even feels sorry for him in the end. I found that strange, until I realized that she, too, probably believes that she is irresistibly attractive sexually. She agrees that he wouldn't have been able to control his strong, sexual urges, when confronted by a beautiful, young, sexually-attractive woman like herself. Especially if she were naked, as she had been. This, she can forgive.

The husband feels his honour has been besmirched, and he feels obligated to do something about it. He is not forgiving. In the end, he can't quite bring himself to make the final cut, but he doesn't need to do so as circumstances does it for him. Does he, too, consider that the rapist could be understood? We see how this all impinges on the family of the transgressor: they are loyal to him, no matter what he is accused of doing. We see how vengeance has been taken without any need of the police.

In North America, if a woman were raped, one would expect, ideally, that the husband would be concerned about his wife. He would surely want to comfort her, and let her express her feelings by telling him all about it. He would call the police, even if his wife couldn't bring herself to do so. Like the police, he would consider that the assault is a physical one, and ought to be treated as such. In Iran, The Salesman shows that the reaction of the Persian couple would be very different. They wouldn't turn to each other for comfort, but, rather, would each suffer silently their own very different responses to the situation.

The Salesman made me think of how different are cultures. What if a North American man were transported to Iran and became part of the culture. How would he react then if his wife were raped? How important a part does cultural environment have on how people feel subconsciously, and think? Does this even affect their genes?

I didn't find the content of this film enjoyable, in the sense of "satisfying and leaving me with a good feeling". This was not the aim of the director anyway. It certainly was interesting as an anthropological and psychological study. I wonder if Iranians would find it satisfying? In their view, would justice be done, and be seen to be done? Probably.

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