Leading Iranian director condemns Tehran's treatment of intellectuals

Leading Iranian director Asghar Farhadi condemned on Saturday the treatment of intellectuals in his country at a Cannes Film Festival press conference marking the premiere of his film about a husband seeking revenge for an attack on his wife.

Farhadi said after his Oscar-winning movie Nader and Simin, A Separation he "found it easy to make films in Iran, which helped to iron out some of the difficulties filmmakers have in the country."

This was despite the dim view that Tehran generally takes of the way leading Iranian directors are celebrated at major film festivals around the world, often banning their award-winning films at home.

The authorities' treatment of intellectuals such as poets and fellow filmmakers "embarrasses me," Farhadi told the Cannes press conference for his film, The Salesman.

"But," he said, "when you have grown up with these obstacles, they become a source of energy," adding he would continue to work mostly in Iran.

Farhadi's movie is about a young couple – Emad and Rana - who move into a new apartment only to face a dramatic change in their life after she is attacked in an incident related to a previous tenant.

As was the case with the other film that premiered at Cannes on Saturday, Dutch-born director Paul Verhoeven's Elle, Farhadi's The Salesman is a tale about revenge.

But while it is the husband, Emad, who seeks revenge for the attack on his wife in The Salesman, it is the victim of a rape in Paul Verhoeven's Elle who seeks revenge.

Farhadi said in making his film he was interested in violence that is somehow justified by the perpetrators.

"Like a terrorist, (the husband) believes he entitled to be violent," said the 44-year-old Farhadi. "He has also built up the reasons to be violent."

After Rana rules out going the police, Emad launches his own increasingly obsessive probe into the assault in a bid to track down the attacker, turning the movie into something of a detective thriller.

"I think a western man might have reacted even more violently," said Taraneh Alidoosti, who plays Rana in the film. "It's a taboo to invade a woman's private sphere.

Emad "feels like what happened to Rana is an assault on his own masculinity" and he acts "out of love for his wife," she said.

Farhadi is returning to Cannes three years after the screening of his movie The Past with The Salesman, which includes references to Arthur Miller's classic Death of a Salesman.

In 2012, Farhadi won the Oscar for the best foreign language film with Nader and Simin, A Separation, which was awarded a series of prizes around the world, including the Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear for best picture.

Both Farhadi and Elle include strong female characters – both young and old. This has been a feature of this year's Cannes festival, with Rani in The Salesman standing her ground against her husband.

Leading French actress Isabelle Huppert heads a strong French cast in Elle when she plays a top video-game company executive, who is raped in her home and who sets out to turn the tables on her attacker using unconventional methods.

"The film was not a statement about women, but this particular woman," said Huppert, who has appeared in a record 20 entries in Cannes' main competition. She has won the festival's award for best actress twice.

Like Rana in The Salesman, Michele in Elle – for very different reasons – refuses to go the police.

Elle was the Dutch-born Verhoeven's first movie in French and was based on a script by US scriptwriter David Birke that was adapted from the novel Oh... by French writer Philippe Dijian.

Verhoeven's Elle represents his first appearance in Cannes in more than 20 years in a movie-making career that has spanned Europe and the United States and included such definitive US films including Robocop and recently the Dutch World War II thriller Black Book.

Last update: Sat, 21/05/2016 - 18:20
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