The female character portrayed by Golshifteh Farahani in The Patience Stone – co-written and directed by Atiq Rahimi, the Afghan-born filmmaker who also wrote the novel on which his movie is based – has every reason to be talking to herself.
She’s a young Muslim woman – the players in this chilling parable are designated not by names but by archetypes – with two young daughters living in an unnamed war-ravaged Middle-Eastern village, in which Mars-dominated military attacks and home invasions by feuding factions are a daily occurrence.
The immediate cause of her stream-of-consciousness outpourings is the fate of The Man. That would be her husband (Hamid Djavadan), a much older male, who lies apparently comatose on the floor in their blown-out living quarters, recovering from a gunshot wound to the neck.
From the start, and through her constant chatter, it’s clear there have been issues in their union. The Man, a respected soldier, wasn’t even present at their wedding – he was waging war. “Like all heroes, you were absent,” she says. “I got married to you without you.” In flashback, sitting on the husband’s cushion at the marriage ceremony is weaponry, which essentially makes her the bride of a dagger, a phallic symbol. Things didn’t improve upon his return, when The Man became indifferent to her and continued to think only about his soldiering.
With not much of a viable partnership during their 10-year-old marriage, The Woman sees an advantage to The Man’s vegetative state: “You’re listening to me, for once,” she says, sensing that he’s somehow compelling her to talk.
Nevertheless, with no viable means of support, and having to rely on home-made I-V fluids to hydrate him, The Woman is desperate that her husband not die. She tells him, poignantly, “You’re the one wounded, and I suffer.” With nowhere else to turn, she dons her mustard-colored burqa to periodically visit her aunt, in the midst of bombs and gunfire.
The Aunt (Hassina Burgan), a middle-aged woman who sometimes gives her niece money and provides the two children with safe haven, is also the source of a valuable piece of lore that critically advances the narrative. This nugget is the story of the patience stone which serves as the repository of one’s secrets. “The day the stone shatters,” says The Aunt, “you’re delivered of your pain.”
Somehow revitalized by this knowledge, The Woman becomes more daring in the subject matter she reveals to The Man, which includes topics of intimacy, their daughters and her sexual needs. And suddenly, The Woman who’s technically trapped in and imprisoned by a male-centric society sprouts metaphoric wings, achieving a previously unthinkable independence – physical, emotional and even financial – through an unlikely suitor who’s younger and more amenable to Feminine ways.
To give anything more away about how talking (Mercury) can be a stone-shattering act of liberation (Uranus) would spoil the pleasure of watching this gorgeous and profound piece of filmmaking unfold. Unlike The Woman’s, my lips are sealed.
Astrology Film Rating: ☿♅ (Mercury, Uranus)