The Patience Stone

The Patience Stone (M)
★★★★☆
(102 minutes)
Release date: September 5, 2013.

Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani plays the central character in The Patience Stone. Picture: supplied by MIFF

Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani plays the central character in The Patience Stone. Picture: supplied by MIFF

WHEN long held secrets are eventually revealed, you never know what effect those shattered illusions will provoke.

This is the risk that the central character of the young wife (Golshifteh Farahani) takes in The Patience Stone as she gradually shares her most intimate thoughts and experiences with her comatose husband (Hamid Djavadan).

Jean-Claude Carrière’s screenplay for The Patience Stone is based on the novel of the same name by writer and director, Atiq Rahimi. The story is set in Kabul, Afghanistan against the backdrop of an unnamed war when anything can happen at any time. Families and neighbours eke out their daily existence and try to stay alive amongst a backdrop of buildings scarred by bullets and bombs. Armed men stand on rooftops. Destruction and the threat of attack from enemy soldiers – or any soldier – is all around.

Rahimi, successfully uses the contrast of war and domesticity to constantly build suspense. Sounds of water dripping and domestic chatter contrast sharply with sudden screams, gun shots and bomb blasts as tanks roll by outside.

In this environment The Patience Stone traces the woman’s struggle to keep her children safe as she dutifully tends to her soldier husband who, three weeks earlier, was shot in the neck and rendered helpless. She feeds him water and medicine through a tube to the mouth but money has run out and she is in debt to the chemist and the water delivery man.

Frustrated and desperate, her prone husband becomes her “patience stone”. According to ancient mythology, the stone hears all your burdens until one day it shatters and you are relieved of all your pain. She tells him about her childhood, their marriage and confesses her deepest thoughts, frustrations and secrets, finally free to express herself for the first time to this non-responsive confidante. Her aunt, a prostitute, has been her only source of advice when she has needed it most.

The Patience Stone is mainly set in one room of the house where the husband lies paralysed. There is beauty in the little things; a photo, a plant, softly billowing curtains, colourful Persian rugs and cushions. It is an intimate space where Rahimi employs camera angles and close-ups to best effect.

Rahimi uses the imagery of birds as a device to represent hope and freedom. In this intimate domestic space, we see birds in flight printed on the curtains. Later, a turkey wanders over rubble after a night of bombing and in another scene, the woman recalls her father’s love for his combat quails which play a part in one childhood act of defiance.

Farahani gives a consistently stunning performance of a woman who has always fought for survival. When a young soldier with a stutter arrives, they embark on a journey of mutual growth.

There is nothing not to like about this film. The Patience Stone is a gritty drama and understated masterpiece of cinematography that will keep you engrossed from the opening credits to the very end.

Previewed at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF)

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