Sunday, September 22, 2013
"The Patience Stone": a woman caring for her comatose war-maimed husband shares her deepest secrets
“The Patience Stone”, from Afghan director Atiq Rahimi (based on his novel), certain combines Islamic values and civil war with a bizarre sexual and personal vision. The protagonist is a 30-something married woman played by Golsifteh Farahani, who tends to her apparently comatose husband (Hamid Djavadan), who has been shot in the neck after a personal confrontation with one of his own local people. He may be in a vegetative state, or have the “locked-in” syndrome, as in “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Jan. 11, 2008; see also “Sessions”, Dec. 12, 2012).
There is cacophony and carnage around her, as the woman huddles with her kids, husband, and aunt in early scenes. The few outdoor scenes, of an Afghan city built on a mountainside, are quite breathtaking.
The woman tends her husband, and his feeding tube. But gradually she lets out her desires and fantasies, with a candor normally unthinkable in an active marriage. She struggles with the question of fertility, and the implications for her faithfulness. In a confrontation with an older mujahedeen, she says she makes a living as a prostitute. The old man gets man, but soon a young soldier (Massi Mrowat) who stutters appears as a “customer”, but soon the young man’s real needs take her attention. What will happen if her husband wakes up?
There is a lot of fantasy material about the male in the movie, odd for an Islamic film given Islam’s strict sexual mores, as if the filmmaker wants to show visually some of the pretexts for Islamic moral beliefs. She undresses and rubs her husband’s hairy body with oil, and then later undresses the young soldier, who is largely smooth, but has numerous intentional burn marks on his body (although the film doesn’t make them very conspicuous, fortunately). How much significance does our deepest fantasy material really have?
The husband, when comatose, is supposed to become a metaphor for a Persian “patience stone”. I thought that the Taliban and Islamic practice in the country was Sunni, however.
Sony’s site for the film is here.
The film was a co-production between Afghanistan, France and Germany.
I saw it on a Sunday afternoon at the AMC Shirlington.