With 2011’s “A Separation,” Asghar Farhadi went from an Iranian filmmaker largely known among the film festival circuit to an international master. The drama won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for its screenplay. Farhadi went to France next, making “The Past.” Then he decided to return home. Now we have “The Salesman,” in which a teacher/actor named Emad (played by Shahab Hosseini) becomes singlemindedly obsessed with finding the man who assaulted his wife (Taraneh Alidoosti). Farhadi spoke to us about why he went back home, the film’s theatrical roots and the subtleties of Persian languages.
After “The Past,” you had spoken about making your next film in a different country. Instead you returned to Iran. What were the reasons for that?
I was about to go to Spain after “The Past.” I even wrote the treatment and looked at locations. But then something made me change my decision. It would have been very hard for me to spend the next three years outside my country. I asked my producer if I could go back to Iran for my next movie. I only had one year to write this film. It was mostly an emotional decision.
And you’re still going to make the film in Spain. How different do you think it will be from “The Salesman”?
It’s in the same direction of filmmaking I’m going right now. It’s another thriller about family.
It’s interesting to hear you refer to these films as thrillers. While they’re treated like dramas, there are genre elements about them.
In Iran they talk about this quality of my films, actually. They always say that some stranger walks into the film and changes everything. In “A Separation,” the maid comes to the house to take care of the old man, and everything changes. In “About Elly,” Elly herself is a stranger going into that group of people. In “The Past,” a stranger goes to another country. In “The Salesman,” a stranger walks into a couple’s apartment. This is completely unconscious. I think it’s because home for me is very important. When I say “home,” I don’t mean a physical building but somewhere where you can feel safe.
In Iran, are your films treated differently than they are everywhere else? In America, they’re dramas, they’re art house films.
There are two kinds of approaches to my films, which is very interesting to me. There are the film critics and filmmakers, who usually focus on the drama. But the theatrical audiences look at them like documentaries, seeing how close they are to real life. That’s very interesting to me, the combination of drama and everyday life.
Since “A Separation” catapulted you onto the international cinema scene, do you find that your approach has changed? Are you writing in part with an international audience in mind?
When I write, I have only one audience in my head, and that’s me. If I believe something, I believe everyone can believe it.