The Patience Stone
A provocative drama about a wife and her comatose husband, set against the back drop of a Middle Eastern war
In an unnamed town in what could be Afghanistan, a young woman tends to her injured husband. A religious war is being fought around them, and while battling alongside his Muslim brothers the husband has taken a stray bullet in the neck. Now he is breathing and not much else; he lies staring into space, not moving and completely unresponsive. His silence prompts the woman to speak – 'You’re compelling me to talk', she says – and as the surrounding violence escalates she begins to tell him all the thoughts, resentments and deep secrets that he has never listened to during their marriage.
Afghani filmmaker Atiq Rahimi uses this scenario to offer, on one level, a damning insight into a traditionally arranged Muslim marriage. The unnamed wife’s confession is an indictment of Muslim men who disregard the women in their lives, following abusive traditions out of a misplaced and twisted heroic idealism. But this film is not foremost a social drama; the lack of names for places and characters gives a clue that this may be a story to be understood more symbolically than literally. As it progresses the woman’s story is paralleled with several religious myths and it builds to a conclusion that is terrifying, far-fetched and powerfully-realised. The final moments resonate with a mythic quality.
This is a striking and provocative film, and essential to its success is Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, giving a deeply layered performance as the woman. She is both liberated and falling apart, at once a victim and fiercely in control, and Farahani ensures her actions are never predictable but always believable. Her expression in the film’s final enigmatic frame is one of the best parting shots in cinema this year.
Limited release from Fri 6 Dec.