04/05/2017

The Patience Stone - Extreme Genuity

Quick Thoughts: The Patience Stone (2012)


From the French-Afghan director Atiq Rahimi, we have the first film in the World Cinema Series that represents Afghanistan.


Awe-inspiringly powerful, The Patience Stone is one of the greatest character films I have ever seen - without a doubt. With immaculate cinematography, camera work and acting, this stands tall as a film I can't describe to be anything other than perfect.

The script, based off of Atiq Rahimi's book of the same name, utilities its female protagonist in an anonymous war-torn country to explore extremely profound notions of truth and isolation. In such, she starts the narrative wanting to escape her town, almost willing to leave her husband to die, but cannot bring herself to entirely abandon him. So, having discovered her aunt, who is able to watch her children during the days, our protagonist ventures back home to take care of her husband. It's here where she is faced by a stone wall that she must care for, one she eventually begins to talk to - hence the parabolic title that has roots in Persian mythology. With the husband as her patience stone, something she may confide in as a means of exploring herself, our protagonist reveals the most intimate details of her life, expositing an 'extreme genuity' by laying out the patterns of thought we often push out of our own consciousnesses and into a subconscious. And it is this extreme genuity that lies at the source of this narrative's power; it not only gives us untold access to the mind of a protagonist, but puts that protagonist in an extremely complex and dramatic situation.

What you will then find in this film is a powerful lesson in characterisation; one that demonstrates how to access a deep truth within protaognists. In such, getting to know a character, being able to walk in their shoes and know their thoughts, their concealed behaviors, thoughts and emotions, is not just about complete access. There is a fourth wall within The Patience Stone that is put in place and leaned on so that this 'access' that we are allowed is measured. To expand, the fourth wall being leaned on is exemplified in moments of self-reflection in our protagonist, moments where she will not just lay down the truth of her thoughts, past and emotions but question them and debate the meaning of her actions. This is important as, though it is easy to think the opposite, we do not actually want raw access into people's minds or pasts. We do not want non-reflexive voices and exposition because the conflict of a film that means to delve deeply into a character usually exists within them. So, if there are mainly inner-conflicts put to screen and no debate, no self-reflection, characters become passive and slip through the narrative in an almost meaningless stream of consciousness. Add to this the banality of simply expositing horrific moments of a character's past and you construct a narrative thats only draw is the imagination of a writer thinking up something vastly melodramatic. But, by sustaining a debate within his character and not just expositing her complex past, Rahimi maintains a strong and present character, demonstrating her empathy and the fact that she thinks of her husband as she talks - which also means that she, in part, thinks of the audience too. This is why there is a leaning on the fourth wall; our protagonists is seemingly talking to us too at points. That not only makes things much more intimate, but, most importantly, makes her self-reflexive - all to the consequence of a deeper, more complex and more genuine exploration of her inner self.

What this culminates in is a shade of truth that we have been calling 'extreme genuity'; a character conveying exactly who they are to an extent which we rarely are given access to in films. When we add to this the looming physical conflicts that are present in this film, you have a recipe for a profoundly emotional and resonant story. So, to conclude, all I can say is that The Patience Stone is a film I more than recommend you find and watch.

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UPDATE: If you are interested in another film from Afghanistan, check out an exploration of Osama.





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