In a country torn apart by war, in Afghanistan or elsewhere, a beautiful young woman is left alone to care for her wounded husband who has been in a coma for the past two weeks. In the hope that he will awaken, she talks to him about her childhood, her dreams and frustrations, her loneliness and desires. For the very first time in her life she is able to confess her deepest feelings, believing he has become her 'Patience Stone', a magical stone which, according to Persian mythology, will deliver her from pain and torment.
This is another world for me, Afghanistan at its most dangerous, with a vulnerable woman coping with unbelievable problems, and just getting on with it. Her world must be full of people like her who don't find a way to live through it all, and are crushed and probably killed. For me it was a very fine film, well acted, well put together, telling a story which sheds light on the lives of countless women in the war torn Arab world.
An old Persian myth tells of a woman who, struggling under the burdens of her life, falls before a stone and vocalizes all her pain and suffering – after which the stone splits open and releases her of all her unhappiness. Founding its premise on this story Atiq Rahimi’s film the Patience Stone focuses on an unnamed woman who, after her husband is incapacitated by a bullet to the neck, opens up about her feelings about their loveless, arranged marriage and her lost hopes and dreams.
Set in an unknown part of Afghanistan in the midst of the recent, bloody, conflict the Patience Stone has a great deal of promise; the story of the unnamed woman is told well, the performance of the beautiful Golshifteh Farahani is underplayed and insightful. Unfortunately the film manages simultaneously to do too little and too much whilst the script is overly heavy and the camera work static to the point of stagnation.
The film begins as a woman tends to her husband who is in a vegetative state following a collision with enemy soldiers; she begins her soliloquy tentatively at first but is soon fuelled by the silence and apparent lack of judgement from her mute husband and finds herself revealing things that she has never spoken aloud despite their ten year marriage. Though the script is a little wordy - the sentences twist around flowery language in an attempt to be poetic – this part of the film is rather beautiful, the slow and tempered unravelling of the female lead is well managed and perceptive. When however the story makes a change in direction the elusiveness and private-ness of the situation gets lost in the addition of more charismatic and over whelming characters and long scenes of conversation captured by a camera that feels almost to have been plonked down and forgotten by its director.
Though it’s a little pretentious I liked the first two thirds of the Patience Stone and, I am told, this area of the original novel/stage play are even better, I couldn’t help but feel let down by the final third where some of the newly introduced characters steal the screen from our unnamed woman and leave you wondering why you bothered to listen to her in the first place if there were these, more interesting, people around the whole time…