An intimacy with the protagonist of the movie, The Patience Stone, is immediate. We see the young mother, performed by Golshifteh Farahani, at home, revealed in casual dress. In the street, she must cover up so completely, even her eyes are shielded by the cloth grate of her burqa. More remarkable: the intimacy goes further. We hear her voice. The caretaker of her husband who is in a coma, the woman speaks her mind, protecting him from soldiers and other invaders at a difficult political time, but not from her inner world.
Struck by the film's freedom, I interviewed the story's writer and film's director Atiq Rahimi via email.
Given the subversive nature of your film, how was it possible to make it? How was it funded?
AR: Indeed, I would never have been able to make this film if I were living and working in Afghanistan. And if, despite its "subversive nature," as you say, I was able to make this film, it was thanks for the book. For, as you know, I wrote the book first and I won the Prix Goncourt [for it] in 2008. The work was translated into some thirty languages, even into Persian, my native language, in Afghanistan and in Iran. I believe that this success that led producers to be interested in its adaptation. At the beginning, we wanted to shoot the film in English, which helped with the financing of the film. But once the screenplay was finished, Jean-Claude Carrière and I realized that the film could not be made in any language other than Persian. This decision drove away a couple of producer partners and I shot the film with a very small budget.
What has the critical reception been thus far?
AR: The film had its world premier at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012 and was very well received by the public, the critics and by distributors as well. Also, when it came out in February in France, the critics were unanimous. In my birth country, the Oscar selection committee chose my film to represent Afghanistan. And currently in the USA, we have had very good reviews up until now. I hope that continues!
How accurately does the film represent the longings of women in your country?
AR : I am not a sociologist, an ethnologist nor a sexologist so I cannot pretend that I have faithfully captured the desires of Afghan women. It's a fictional film about one woman. Some women will be able to see themselves in her, others no, and that's OK! Can we say that Leo Tolstoy was able to faithfully represent the desires of all Russian women? And does the woman played by Sharon Stone in Paul Verhoeven's Basic Instinct represent American women?
Of course, before writing the book, I did my research in Afghanistan. I met with women, I collected their stories, documents...But this does not allow me to say that my film is a depiction of Afghan women's sex lives.
I cannot say whether this woman exists. But she is a woman whom I would like to see exist in such a similar situation, in such a culture. A woman who rebels, who reveals herself, who tells her story, who discovers her desires, her body, who realizes herself.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.