The Salesman ★★★★½

Of the handful of movie directors who have made the greatest impact on me, Asghar Farhadi ranks right at the top. His mastery of psychological tension and drama and the window he offers into Middle Eastern culture is unsurpassed.  He is well deserving of his unprecedented two Oscar wins for best foreign film, first for A Separation and then this year for this movie. He is most recently renowned for boycotting these Oscars and missing the opportunity to receive his award out of protest against the US travel ban on Muslims.

It seems that any culture that is heavily influenced by fundamentalist religion is prone to be a shame based culture. This becomes quickly evident in this movie when it is suggested that the unknown perpetrator of the assault of a woman in the shower deserves public shaming. This seems more important even than any reliance on the police to track down and punish the perpetrator. 

Great movie directors are better known for the quality of the questions they pose than the answers they provide, even if the questions go unanswered. The immense power of this movie is Farhadi’s courage and wisdom to question the hard belief in his culture that shame is the deserved consequence and most effective deterrent for crime. It is even suggested that such shame may be nothing more than revenge. What if forgiveness is the only meaningful and effective response?  

There is a lot  that is left unresolved by the end of this movie, but in this case, this may be its strength.