A glimpse into what life is like for a young wife and mother in an embattled Middle Eastern village is revealed in The Patience Stone. It isn’t pretty.
Based on Afghan director Atiq Rahimi’s best-selling novel, The Patience Stone concerns a 30-something Muslim woman whose older husband, a brutish war hero of some sort, has been paralyzed with a bullet to the neck. Lying on a pile of blankets on the floor of a bare room and abandoned by his brothers and
fellow jihadists, the unnamed
husband is tended only by his
wife. In the course of administering a homemade sugar-water drip into his mouth that is apparently keeping him alive, she starts to talk to him. Her one-sided conversation starts out with desperate frets about how she and her two daughters will get by with no money and no help in the repeatedly bombed and shot-up village.
Over time, she gathers the courage to tell her husband all of the things she has remained silent about during their 10 years of marriage, including his brothers’ lust for her, the abuse suffered at the hands of her father, the truth about the conception of her children, and her absolute sense of hopelessness about her life and marriage.
The monologues, which anchor the film, are intercut with the woman’s experiences when venturing out, heavily robed in a saffron burqa, from the dismal space that houses her husband in search of her aunt, who has achieved a measure of independence from the family’s stifling way of life by exploiting immorality for profit. The talks between the aunt and niece are even more revealing of how women exist in such a society than the direct communication between the wife and her husband.
The unnamed wife, as played by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, is the key to the film’s success. Her heartfelt expressions to her husband - which increase in passion and recklessness as the film moves along - of a life of oppression and subservience form a somber, serious condemnation of the way Muslim women are viewed and treated. This immobilized man unconsciously becomes syngue sabour, a magic stone which, according to Persian mythology, when placed in front of a person shields her from unhappiness, suffering, pains and miseries.
“You’re listening to me for once,” she says.
And although there are many quiet moments, The Patience Stone isn’t a romance with a happy ending. Every scene is loaded with stress caused by the woman’s abject poverty, the abrupt continuing explosions of bombs and rat-tat-tat of Kalashnikovs, and the presence of nearly feral soldiers who are not there to save anybody.
The Patience Stone 88 Cast: Golshifteh Farahani, Hamid Djavadan, Hassina Burgan Director: Atiq Rahimi Rating: R, for sexual content, violence, language Running time: 102 minutes In Persian with English subtitles
MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 10/18/2013
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