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Unsettling but gripping movie about women's role in Muslim society
on 4 December 2013
"The Patience Stone" (2012 release from Algeria; 102 min.) brings the story of an (unnamed) woman who is tending to her wounded husband, who we later learn was shot when defending his family's honor after being insulted. The husband is markedly older than her. As the film starts to unfold, the woman is starting to spill secrets to her comatose husband about her upbringing and, more importantly, her 10 year marriage to him. Apart from the emotional state of affairs, the woman and her two young daughters are trying to cope with living in a war-torn area (Afghanistan, presumably), where militia regularly search house by house. One day, the woman's house is searched by a commander and a younger soldier. To tell you more of the plot would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this film is based on the book of the same name by Atiq Rahimi, who adopted his novel for the big screen and also directed this (and beautifully, I may add). There are several aspects of the film that are deeply unsettling, none more so than the submissive role Muslim women are forced to endure in the Muslim world. They didn't ask for it, yet they have no choice. At one point, the wife tells her husband about how her sister, then 12 years old, is sold off by their father in order to settle a lost bet, and nothing can be done about it. When you see the wife going about her business inside the house, and then having to wear a burqua (a loose dress that covers the whole body from head to toe) when going outside, it is unsettling to me. Much of the film takes place in the one room where the wife is tending to her comatose husband, whom she hides from view for fear of retribution from the militia roaming the streets, and in that sense the movie feels like a theatre play brought to the big screen. This is not a complaint, mind you. Last, but certainly not least, the acting performances in this film are top notch throughout, none more so that from the lead, Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani in the role of the wife. This is my first time seeing her on the big screen and I was simply blown away by her performance, which hits all the highs and lows of the emotional spectrum, not to mention that she is graced with an amazing beauty.
Imagine my surprise when this movie showed up unannounced and without any pre-release or hype in September at my local art-house theatre here in Cincinnati. I figured this would not play very long, and hence went to see it right away. The matinee showing I saw this at was quite well attended, somewhat to my (pleasant) surprise. Bottom line: "The Patience Stone" is a stunningly beautiful and moving movie, taking a profound look at the role of women in Muslim society. If you are in the mood for a top-quality foreign movie that is not just miles but GALAXIES away from your standard Hollywood fare, you cannot go wrong with this. "The Patience Stone" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!