Populated by unnamed characters in a war-ridden, unidentified country in the Middle East, “The Patience Stone” was filmed mostly in Morocco. Outside shots of Kabul required a guerrilla approach because Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani is so famous in the region that filmmakers were afraid her presence would draw unruly crowds and unwanted attention from the "Morals Police" types.
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Afghan writer and director Atiq Rahimi directed the film based on his 2008 novel – “The Patience Stone” has been translated into 33 languages. He also co-wrote the script with famed screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière (“The Artist and the Model”).
The film tells the story of a woman (Farahani) tending to her comatose husband, a soldier who has taken a bullet in the neck. To appreciate Farahani’s performance, you’ll have to get past some clunky, expository dialogue at the beginning of the film.
In Persian mythology, a patience stone (syngué sabour) is a magical black rock that can absorb one's burdensome, often painful secrets. Unlike Catholic priests, rosary beads and therapists, a patience stone shatters when it reaches its capacity to soak up misery.
In the film, the woman’s husband becomes a patience zone. He is immobile and unable to communicate. She is otherwise alone with her two children; most of her family has fled or been killed. Stray bullets and grenades explode with little notice. Often, it is unclear who is fighting who – or what, exactly, they are fighting for.
The woman talks to her husband about their predicament, even though he is apparently unable to hear her. As days pass, the daily monologues become increasingly darker. We learn uncomfortable truths about their relationship. She says things she would never tell him – or most likely any other man – if she thought they could hear her words.
When two soldiers barge into her home, she tells them she is a prostitute. Disgusted, they leave. Her aunt tells her that lie may have saved her life because the men prefer to rape virgins.
Stammering and inexperienced, the younger soldier returns the following day. From what we know about the woman’s character at this point, this scene could have unfolded in a few different ways; what ultimately happens onscreen feels contrived, although not everyone is likely to experience it the same way.
Rahimi has much to say about war, women and oppressive societies. The illusion of power and control persist on some level, but does anyone really win in the end?
See playdates and locations for “The Patience Stone” HERE.
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