The Movie “The Salesman” Projecting Truth and Pursuit of Justice in Sexual Harassment Towards Women in Iran

  • Spoiler alert!!! I will suggest you watch the movie beforehand so you can enjoy the article

The film “The Salesman” has captured the ideological power issue that leads Iranian women to be silent about their experience of sexual harassment. The movie “The Salesman” was written and directed by Asghar Farhadi in 2016. Asghar Farhadi is an Iranian screenwriter and director, well-known for his work and productions such as “A Separation” (2012) and “The Salesman” (2016) which was awarded the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. His film, “The Salesman”, successfully achieved the attention of audiences worldwide and was acknowledged for his art. The movie took place and was filmed in Iran, and the main characters were played by Iranian actresses, Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini. The content of the film captures the social issues that the middle-class people of Iran have been facing. Briefly explained, the story begins with a married couple who both act in a theater, working on a play called “Death of a Salesman” by Miller. The couple temporarily rent an old apartment because of a construction problem they had in their original apartment. After a while of staying in the new place, a horrible incident happens to the wife. While she was cleaning the shower room to take a bath, she hears the doorbell ring and opens the door, assuming it is her husband. The scene then jumps to the part where the husband comes back home and finds blood all over the stairs outside his door and rushes into the house to look for his wife. When he looks for her in the bathroom, he sees blood all over the wall and becomes speechless. He then runs to the hospital and finds his wife injured in the emergency room. After he learns of the condition his wife was found in the bathroom, his neighbor, including the owner of the apartment, talks about the person who used to live in that room previously. As it turns out, there was a prostitute who lived with her little son in that apartment and the person who injured his wife was a previous customer of the prostitute. The wife never speaks up about what exactly happened and refuses to call the police to investigate the crime. Later on, the owner of the apartment tells her to just forget about what happened for her own sake. The movie, it shows that she is embarrassed about this incident and feels uncomfortable to let people around her know about it. Therefore, she decides to not talk about this matter. Even at the end of the movie, when the identity of the assailant was revealed, she begs her husband to let him go. In conclusion, the story is about a married couple who are facing a difficult challenge that is not spoken about publicly in the country because the topic is considered taboo. In the story, the wife faces brutal harassment and will deal with difficulty socializing with people or even act on stage after the incident. The couple has to deal with the limited truth and difficult pursuit of justice in the society they live in.

“The Salesman” shows the cultural beliefs that have shaped society into a place with limited freedom and rights of speaking up for human justice. When it comes to a country such as Iran, the pursuit of justice is difficult to establish in the religion-based society and government, and such a circumstance leads to several causes of ideological issues. The number of victims, both female and male, of sexual harassment increases when society tends to criticize victims for the cause of harassment. “The Salesman” contains the ideas of the what and the who it is that victims are afraid of, preventing them from speaking up for their justice and their rights. In Iran, specific to women, people have difficulty expressing their opinions if they think it is even slightly against religious beliefs and values. In the worst scenario, if an individual speaks against religion, he or she could be detained by force. The country itself has been strict as to what can be said and told about the government in public places and conversations or even in the private life of its citizens. For these reasons, artwork such as movies are tools used for Iranian people to fight against the government system and their ideological force. In the movie, as a part of Asghar Farhadi’s technique used in his work, it never shows the specific “scene” of what really happens to the character. It is all about reading the atmosphere and signs of each character’s response to the case. Therefore, it is not clear enough to say if she was sexually harassed or was just brutally abused. This puts a value on how people living in Iran deal with the truth that is not told in public. The film technique used by the director presents the audience a perspective of the things that the Iranian society does not specifically know is happening to the victims who face harassment.

Since the movie is brutally honest and speaks about the ideological issue in this society, the film did broadcast to public Iranian citizens, but with the limited explanation of the content and its analysis. The dominant ideology presented in the movie content leads to the production not officially being published in the country and is not supported by the government. Most of the movies not categorized as publicly proper have several choices of support for the work. The fund supports are from individuals and the director himself. The movie serves interest to audiences who are against the ideology of society in Iran. Also, the Iranians who live in foreign countries or immigrated in different places are the main audiences of this movie as they can watch, talk about and analyze it freely. The belief in this movie speaks to the people who deal with the ideology of Iran where most cases of harassment are ignored and pushed aside. The ignoring of such cases is especially significant when the harasser is the one with power under religion. To make this view of the issue more clear, Asghar Farhadi sends a message to people who are ignoring the facts or who are not aware of the existence of the issue itself. Making people aware of the social issue is the main purpose of Asghar Farhadi for creating movies containing deep yet simple meanings.

In terms of ideographic uses in the film, verbal and visual words were used to symbolize and create meanings. However, some of the symbols and actors verbal uses in the movie are related to the rhetoric and ideology in the text. In Iran, physical interaction between women and men are prohibited. Even the actors and actresses who play the role of a married couple or a mother and son relationship, they are not allowed to touch one another. For this reason, the challenge in Iranian movies is to create a realistic bonding to display a strong relationship in the married couple. To overcome this challenge, the director and producers have to pay full attention to the camera technique, scene cuts, and the verbal lines used in the film to bring out the best from the scene. The quality in the use of this method creates meaning in a way that requires audiences with high attention and focus. Every camera angles and cuts in the scene have their own meaning into it. For example, in “The Salesman”, scenes where you see the husband comforting his damaged wife, the method of camera angle and great editing skill is highly in use. Especially when the husband touches his wife, the scene would not show him actually touching her. It is just the image of him moving his hand like he is patting his wife. Even in the part when the assailant interacts with his wife, the camera angle captures the moment where the wife is kissing his forehead but the assailant is hidden behind his wife’s Chador (a large cloth used to cover the body). These types of techniques are used to simulate the real-life situation of the interaction between married couples. As the source suggests, “the film has a slant based on the director’s sense of right and wrong” depending on the culture and specific characters in institutions. The director’s use of camera angle, the character’s line, and quotes lead the audience to think more about the social base ideology and provide an interpretation of the issue in our society.

Overall, the movie makes the audience to be more considerate of the destructive social forces in society, providing chances to put women in a position where they feel they have the power to speak up about the issue, mainly on sexual assault, in a place where that chance does not exist. The belief and value that the country has limits people’s opportunities to have their voices be heard. The challenges that the Iranian people experience is beyond imagination. It takes a lot of courage, numbers of people, and evidence to establish powers against the ideology which leads to the cause of people being silent. Since Asghar Farhadi is internationally awarded as a skillful filmmaker, the ideological perspective of the country could be changed by the support of his audiences. Still, it is a struggle to deliver messages contained in the movie to a broad range of people in Iran. Yet his perspective of the ideological power issue which leads Iranian women to lose their voice against sexual harassment is captured in the work of “The Salesman”.



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Selfish Dreamer

Selfish Dreamer

Beginner in writing . Multilingual and am working to practice my language and writing skill in multiple languages. Interested in movie critiques & social issues