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Issue No. 16 - Chaos

Film Review: The Patience Stone

This slyly seductive film takes its time in having its way with us. The opening scenereveals a young beautiful woman tenderly caring for a seemingly comatose older man who lies perfectly still with his eyes wide open with a tube into his mouth from a bag hung on the wall of a simple sparsely furnished room in an unnamed country which resembles Afghanistan.

That she is his wife and that he has been wounded in a way that means he cannot be moved and that all of his jihadist comrades and his family have abandoned him and fled the area because it is too volatile - is revealed by the words she speaks to him as she sits with him while struggling to cope with survival for herself and their two daughters with few resources and no alternatives. The only people she sees are her neighbors and the mullah who comes by to check on her husband and warn her when there will be dangerous fighting so that they can go into the basement for safety.

As the days pass and she struggles to cope with diminishing hope and resources her words becomes more personal as she describes with striking candor just what a miserable life he has made for her, how cruel and insensitive he has been. She is emboldened by his unresponsiveness and begins to think of him as a Patience Stone, a mythological object which can absorb all of a persons pain and suffering. And when all is said - the pain and suffering will be gone. She becomes obsessed with the idea of unburdening herself of all of her deepest secrets. Her emotions alternate between guilt and exhilaration as she confesses to sexual desires and transgressions which are totally taboo. Her revelations reach a crescendo and end with a stunning tour de force.

The luminous Iranian actress, who plays the unnamed woman, Golshifteh Farahani, is in every scene and gives a mesmerizing performance. She has been banned from her country for appearing in Body of Lies and posing nude in a French magazine. She is a revelation. She is an exotic Cate Blanchett. The cinematography reminds me of the intimacy and stillness of Tarkovsky. The camera lingers on the surfaces and textures of the paint-peeling walls, worn wood gates and the dappled light coming through the lightly curtained windows in beautifully composed shots of dramatic simplicity. The story is based on the novel by Atiq Rahimi, who also directed. The screenplay was written by Rahimi in collaboration with Jean-Claude Carriere, who also wrote the screenplay for the film The Artist and The Model. It is a beautifully realised portrait of transcendence over unimagionable intransigent circumstances. It is a jewel - intense and brilliant.

Belle McIntyre

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