Published Apr 09, 2013Though based on his acclaimed novel of the same name, Atiq Rahimi's cinematic adaptation of The Patience Stone has the monologue-driven lyricism of a play, taking place almost entirely in a single setting, where we learn the most intimate secrets of our central protagonist. It's an intimate style that heightens Rahimi's intention of giving a voice to the many faceless Muslim women unable to speak of their subjugation, passion or identity.
Deliberately left without a name, a woman (Golshifteh Farahani) tends to her two daughters and comatose husband in the middle of an unnamed, war-torn country where militia groups and bombings are forcing everyone to flee. Quietly resentful of her husband, but nonetheless obligated, she gradually opens up to him, treating him as a "patience stone," which, as explained by her irreverent prostitute aunt, is where one divulges all their worries and secrets to free themselves.
Initially speaking of her ambivalence, pointing out that her husband wouldn't be an unmovable burden to her if his pride hadn't led him to fight over the statement, "I spit in your mother's pussy," she goes on to discuss her dissatisfaction in marriage and unexplored sexual desires. It's a compelling history and backdrop to a character fully realized and conveyed by Farahani's subdued, but complex central performance.
Even more intriguing is the irony of the situation, since her husband's immobility and inability to challenge or question his wife's innermost secrets mirrors her past role as mate and passive vessel for breeding. As she grows increasingly confident in herself, finally able to speak her mind, she also sheds many of the confining clothes and limitations that held her back in life, eventually embracing her body and desires.
Despite the single-set and limited verbal exchanges, this poetic look at the complexity of a woman given little opportunity to find herself proves magnetic from beginning to end.
Rahimi allows the words to speak for themselves without resorting to unnecessary cinematic stylizations or arty flourishes, instead letting layers of character unfold gradually in each scene. It's a deceptively simple approach that allows the dignity and power of the piece to shine through.