Q&A: The Patience Stone, Directed by Atiq Rahimi
16.10.2012 - Director Atiq Rahimi discussed with
us his bold new drama The Patience Stone, which screens in
ADFF's New Horizons Competition. The story of a woman who begins to
release her pent-up hurt and frustration after her soldier husband
ends up in a coma, the screenplay was adapted from Rahimi's own
You have been away from Afghanistan for a long time, yet
all your work is about Afghanistan. Tell us about your memory of
Afghanistan, your childhood there. Do you have memories of the
time when there was peace in Afghanistan?
The Afghanistan where I lived till 1978 was a fountain of peace,
spirituality and dreams. One of the poorest countries in the
region, it was still able to transform itself into a democracy, in
spite of the prevalent social and ethnic inequalities that were
part and parcel of the countries of the Third World. It is
difficult to imagine today that even back then in 1963, we had
three women ministers in the government, and the parliament was
well-represented by political parties that had divergent
ideologies. We travelled with the family to remote parts of my
country, but what was interesting was that we travelled not only in
space but also in time. We visited the splendid archaeological
sites, plundered and destroyed during the war, but also encountered
people, cultures and living ancestral and pre-Islamic traditions.
The big cities were in the process of modernisation. The women were
actively involved in politics, culture and the economy of
You make frequent trips to Afghanistan. What has changed
in Afghanistan since your childhood there?
On my return in 2002, just after the downfall of the Taliban
regime, I found my country - destroyed and devastated. This
devastation was visible not just in the cities and villages, but
also in the spirit of the Afghan people, society and culture. I did
not recognize this Afghanistan. 30 years of separation created a
huge gap between me and my roots. Just like 30 years of war changed
my country, 30 year of exile changed me too. I had now spent half
of my life in another culture; I spoke a different language, a
lived in another civilisation. The rift is huge, so is the hurt
that it has caused.
Your first work - Earth and Ashes was a novel written by
you that you later filmed. So is your second work. You wrote
your first work in your native language and the second work in
French? Why did you decide to write your second novel in French?Is
it simply a question of mastering a language and being able to use
it well to express thoughts and feelings?
I wrote the book in French rather involuntarily. In the
beginning I was surprised that no Persian words were coming to my
mind. More and more intrigued, I continued to write in French,
hoping I would discover the reason...then I realised that writing
in French allowed me to escape from involuntary self-censorship.
One's mother tongue, by definition itself is sacred; it does get
difficult to stray in one's mother tongue because it is with this
language that you know the world, its limits, and its taboos. One
tends to be modest while writing in one's mother tongue. While I
was in exile in France, strangely, I could not bring myself to
write in French, and since I came back to Afghanistan, strangely, I
can write only in French. Is it because I am no longer nostalgic,
which is indeed normal for people who live far from their homeland?
You don't need grammar, norms and rules to write - idiom is
what you need!
In your film, you give voice to a woman's innermost
feelings. Was it challenging for you to think like a
In beginning, I only wanted to get under the skin of the man,
this paralysed man who hears all, but is unable to respond. I
wanted to tell what might be going on the mind of this man who had
never allowed his wife to speak to him about her dreams,
aspirations, desires or her pain. But while writing, something
strange happened: it was the woman that came to me; she took over
my voice, my pen as if she wanted me to speak about her and her
I don't have pretensions to be a feminist or sexist. I speak of
the woman as I would of a man. What is important is the personality
and not the femininity of this character. The woman in my story is
psychological case, she is melancholic, neurotic - she has many
facets - and is influenced by two strong characters, her
father-in-law and her aunt. As she says, from her aunt she learned
how to live with men and from her father-in-law she learned the
reason to live. From her aunt she learned how to be a woman; and
from her father-in-law, how to be a person. Her aunt's training was
corporeal and her father-in-law's spiritual.
Like all women, this woman possesses a body, a body with its
desires, its dreams, fantasies, secrets... But the society, war,
religion and tradition have turned this body into something
lifeless, repressed, forbidden, injured...
How did you decide to cast Golshifteh Farahani as
the lead, and how was your experience of working with
I wonder if I would have made this film had I not found
Golshifteh. The casting was a tough nut to crack. It is a
difficult, audacious and risky role to take on. I met several
Iranian and Afghan actresses, but when I met Golshifteh, I found
that the character of my story lived in her. Before the audition, I
was hesitant, she is beautiful, and I did not want her beauty to
overshadow the narrative, but she convinced me that her
personality, her art and her intelligence go far beyond her beauty.
We started with work on her accent, as the Persian in Afghanistan
is slightly different from the Persian as it is spoken in Iran. She
adapted to our accent rather quickly. To direct her was sheer
artistic bliss. We shared the same point of view on the character.
She grasped the ambiguity of the character she played. I did not
want to fall into the trap of portraying the despondency of the
woman. She gave the character some dignity, a body - and a lot of
Has the film been seen by women in your country? Would
you like to share the feedback you received from them?
The film was screened for a committee of Afghan filmmakers, as
well as students of fine arts. Among them were many women and
apparently they liked the film lot.
The Patience Stone screens at VOX
Cinemas on Tuesday 16 October at 3:45 pm (Ladies-Only Screening)
and on Wednesday 17 October at 2 pm.