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

Selfish Dreamer
11 min readJul 9, 2019


  • Spoiler alert!!! I suggest you watch the movie beforehand, so you enjoy reading this article

What is the movie about ?

The film “The Salesman” has captured the ideological power issue which prevent Iranian women from speaking about their experience in sexual harassment. The movie projects the struggle from the female and the male perspective of those who suffers from the consequence of such experience. Iran for over 40 years, dominated by Islamic republic which changed its lifestyle of those living in Iran. Art project and works are restricted on topics covered. This movie is one of the taboo topic discussed in Islamic republic. However, this movie lets the audience to figure out small details regarding the plot of the story. They do not specify what the characters in the movie experiences.

Who is the Director ?

The movie is written and directed by Asghar Farhadi in 2016. Asghar Farhadi is an Iranian screenwriter and director, well-known for his works 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 is acknowledged for his art.

Plot of “The Salesman”

the opening scene for the theater show “Death of a salesman”

The movie took place and is filmed in Iran, and the main characters are played by Iranian actresses, Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini. The movie captures the social issues faced in the middle-class people of Iran.

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, Emad and Rana, temporarily evacuated into an apartment due construction issue they’ve faced in their previous residential apartment. The previous resident of the apartment seemed to have left many of their items behind, including children item in the place. For a while, the couple had to settle into their new place by collecting the items outside their entrance. Even with a lot to work with, Rana seemed to be happy with her place of living.

Rana leaves the door and walks back to the bathroom

After a while of their stays in the new place, a horrible incident happens to the wife. One evening, while the wife was getting ready to take a shower, she hears the doorbell ringing. She unlocks the apartment entrance and leaves the house door open, assuming it is her husband. The scene leave the audience staring at the open door we hear the shower water turning on.

Leaving the audience from wondering what happened, the story proceed on to the arrival of her husband returning back home. He rings the bell with no response and asks his neighbor to let him in. As he walked up to the stairs, he notices a suspicious bloodstains all over the stairs leading up to his apartment room. He then rushes up to his house to look for his wife.

Confused and scared, he then finds a scene with blood all over the floor of their bathroom. He is horrified for his wife and wonders where she has gone. Then receives a phone call with information regarding where she is at.

Emad, the husband runs to the ER finding his injured wife laying on the surgical chair sewing her bloody head.

He eventually learns what happened through his down stairs neighbors who heard her screams. The lady hints that she did not rush up to check up on her because her husband told her that the couples problem is not what they should stick their nose into. However, they eventually had to check up on her since thy heard a men running down the stairs. The wife seemed to be found unconscious and naked on the floor of the shower room.

The rumor spreads around and Emad learns that the previous resident of the place was known as a prostitute living with her son. Emad confronts the owner for his lack of responsibility to hide information about the previous resident which costed his wife to go through such incident. It seems one of her customers could have been the one who attacked his wife.

Through out the entire movie, Rana never speaks about what exactly happened to her, but leaving her constantly terrified and warned about her surrounding. Refusing to call the police for investigation due to the PTSD and worrying that she needs to speak about it. She hates to be known as a women who had been “touched” leaving ache on Emad’s heart. But Emad doesn’t know that Rana was told to just forget about the incident for her own sake from the owner. She has to deal with physical and emotional damage. Rana breaks down in the middle of performance of the play “The Salesmen”. She can’t function well and doesn’t want her husband leave her in the house alone.

This particular part of the story captures what SA victim will go through. She hates of being afraid constantly and losing focus on her performance in work. She hates that she needs to rely on her husband which makes her feel like she is a burden to him. She has to bear to live in the place where she was attacked and has to wait for her husband every time he goes out for grocery shopping. She hates that she is pressured to be silent for behave of other. The uncomfortable judgment from others, leaving her alone in the darkness, encouraging her to hide her emotion and keeping everything as it never happened.

In this case, Rana is encouraged by a man to keep the incident in her just to not embarrass her self from people around to know what happened to her. This keeps her away from speaking up and revealing the assailant’s identity. The self-blaming caused by the system where society embarrasses victim of what had happened to them and pressuring them to handle the after care all by themself.

At this point, Emad takes the matter on his hand and investigates all by himself. He recognized a suspicious mini truck that was left alone for a while since the day of the incident. He then hears the car was moved and drives around the town to find clues to the truck.

Eventually he recognizes the truck parked in front of a bakery. He walks into the store for information. He holds suspicion on a young men who claims that he uses the truck. Emad asks him to help him with moving items from his previous residential place and is willing to pay for it. The young men agrees and Emad proceeds on plotting the confrontation.

Emad waiting in his previous house for the men he held a suspicious feeling

In the evening, Emad hears the door ring and waits to welcome the young men to his house ready for the confrontation. However, he sees an old men out of breath coming up from the stairs. He asks where the young men is. It happens to be the young men is his son in law and had a sudden work so he was asked to cover for him.

Emad is dissapointed and is trying to let have the old men call the young men in. The old men is confused and wonders why Emad is obsessed about his son in law, asks for explanation. Emad was left with nothing but with the truth of his intention. He explains what happened to his wife and the suspecion on his son in law. The old men seems stressed and tells how that cannot be true since he knows who his son in law is. The old men proceeds to leave the place to “talk to his son”. However, Emad recognizes a hint of his leg. He was slightly limping on his leg. That was the point he noticed who the real attacker was.

Even after Emad finding the attacker and confronting him, threatening to reveal what he had done to his family, she begs her husband to leave the assailant alone for his life and his family.

In short, the summary of the story is about a married couple who are facing a difficult issue known as a taboo

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”.



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