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

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

The film “The Salesman” has captured the ideological power issue that leads Iranian women to be silent about their experience in sexual harassment. The movie “The Salesman” 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. The movie took place and is filmed in Iran, and the main characters are played by Iranian actresses, Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini. The content of the film 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 opening scene for the theater show “Death of a salesman”

The couple temporarily moves into an old apartment because of a construction problem they had in their previous apartment. After a while of their stay in the new place, a horrible incident happens to the wife. While she was cleaning the shower room to take a shower, she hears the doorbell rings, assuming it is her husband she leaves the door open for him.

Rana leaves the door and walks back to the bathroom

Leaving the audience from knowing what happened next, the story process to the husband returning back to his home with suspicious bloodstains all over the stairs leading to his house. He then rushes back to his house looking for his wife.

Finding blood in the bathroom, he is terrified and wondering where she went.

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

He eventually learns what happened through his neighbors who heard her screams and checking up on her to find her unconsciously naked on the floor of the shower room. The gossip starts with how they noticed a guy with a leg problem walking down the stairs and how the previous resident of the room was known as a prostitute lived with her only son. It seems one of her customers could have been the one who attacked his wife, Rana.

Rana never spoke about what exactly happened to her but leaving her terrified constantly but refuses to call the police to investigate the crime. Later on, the owner of the apartment tells her to just forget about the incident for her own sake. In this particular part of the story emphasizes the embarrassment a victim incident would feel and leading them to be silent about the truth. The uncomfortable judgment from others leaving her alone in the darkness, encouraging her to hide 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 embarrassment and man built society pressuring her to feel the guilt within herself, taught by the system to blame herself.

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”.

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Selfish Dreamer

Selfish Dreamer

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