Q: Going off of that point about morality, there are a few characters in The Salesman who, in any other film, might be completely vilified or else deprived of the detail and humanity that other characters are afforded. How important is it to you that we feel empathy even for the characters who do despicable things in your movies?
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AF: This is the most important goal that I have in my films. I was talking with my friends and I told them, “If you want to write something on my grave, it should be ‘empathy.’” I’m always working towards empathy, even with the characters who do wrong. Audiences usually put themselves in the shoes of the good characters. They never put themselves in the shoes of the person who has done something wrong. And there is no challenge when you put yourselves in the shoes of the good people. The films where characters are heroic and do lots of great things are satisfying and comfortable to audiences. But I want audiences to put themselves in the shoes of characters who have done something wrong. In order to do that, I have to create empathy for the character. And [the audience] can then ask themselves, if I were in his shoes would I do the same thing or not? And if I were to do that, what decisions would I make after that? This is kind of an excuse for the audience to make self-realizations. For example, in About Elly, the audience has to ask themselves, If I was one of those people who went on the trip, would I lie to the fiancé as well and say we didn’t know [Elly] had a fiancé? Could I lie like them or not?