The Patience Stone Reviews
Feminism isn't a movement we readily equate with the Middle East but there's an important movement in the region's film output that's beginning to question the long accepted treatment of women as second class citizens. Earlier this year we saw the excellent and revolutionary Saudi Arabian film Wadjda, a film remarkable for being that nation's first ever feature film, and directed by a female no less, albeit one who had to remain hidden in the back of a van throughout filming for her safety. Now we have the Iranian/Afghani film The Patience Stone, which could be all the more remarkable, given it comes from a male film-maker yet peddles a strand of feminism that would cause a stir in many European countries, let alone a conservative Islamic one.
Most married women joke that their husband's never listen to a word they say and the protagonist of Atiq Rahimi's adaptation of his own novel is no different. However, she's been forbidden from speaking her true mind when her husband was able to hear her words but now, as he lays in a vegetative state, she opens up about her desire to be loved and reveals her sexual fantasies.
The language is shockingly graphic for a film from the Middle East and the frank discussion of the region's attitude to rape will disturb anyone from a more enlightened land. Discovered by two soldiers, the woman pretends to be a prostitute, believing it may earn her a beating but will save her from a rape, as no Muslim man would touch a prostitute. Her plan backfires sadly when one of the men returns alone later.
Despite an adapted script from the prolific and acclaimed screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriére, The Patience Stone is mostly a one-hander monologue that might work well as a stage production but translates poorly to screen. Luc Besson's regular cinematographer Thierry Arbogast is wasted, given little to do but frame a single room for most of the film. The excellent composer Max Richter provides a minimalist score. One suspects these talents were attracted by the film's revolutionary zeal, as will most of its viewers.
As someone who doesn't care for films that deliver their messages in such a crude manner, I can't say I admire The Patience Stone as a film, but I do appreciate what it represents.
(Review by Eric Hillis)