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Friday, 04 October 2013 00:00

'The Patience Stone' immeasurably rewards patience

'The Patience Stone' immeasurably rewards patience
Written by Diane Carson
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An unnamed woman sits in a war-ravaged room, her husband comatose, a bullet in his neck from a quarrel after an insulting exchange with fellow Jihad fighters. She can't afford any more serum so devises a sugar water substitute. Her husband's brothers have fled the fighting, the militia moves through periodically, and she talks, unburdening herself as never before.

That's primarily because her husband has never listened or cared to hear her stories. In fact, he's never affectionately kissed his wife, much less made tender love to her in their 10 years of marriage. On this, the 16th day of her husband's incapacitation, she is tired of praying and of the bombings that force her, her two young daughters, and the few remaining neighbors to take shelter. Her only refuge is with her aunt, a woman so abused by her father-in-law that she killed him and fled, finding solace only as a prostitute.

As this fascinating, thirtyish wife talks, the cultural attitudes and oppressive position of women emerges through the particulars of the scenes she describes to her husband. He has become her patience stone of the title, a stone that listens to all one's sufferings and secrets. Persian mythology holds that one day the stone shatters and falls to pieces, the individual delivered of all her punishments.

Given this context and that the film never names the country (though it looks and feels like Afghanistan) or the characters suggests a universal more than an individual relevance for the inhumane treatment of women and the abhorrent, on-going conflict. As the woman's aunt says, "Those who don't know how to make love make war."

Director Atiq Rahimi masterfully adapted his novel along with writer Jean-Claude Carrière (the celebrated collaborator with Luis Buñuel and Pierre Étaix). The unfolding of the wife's astonishing story is never hurried and yet always tense, the ending heart stopping. Throughout the film, Golshifteh Farahani gives a nuanced, stunning performance. "The Patience Stone" exemplifies focused, perceptive, outstanding filmmaking. In Persian with English subtitles. At a Landmark Theatre.

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