I was surprised to learn that co-writer/director Atiq Rahimi’s film, THE PATIENCE STONE, adapted from his award-winning novel, did not receive a Best Foreign Language Film nomination at 85th Academy Awards as Afghanistan’s submission. It is a great film about a young wife—performed wonderfully, if not heroically, by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani—discovering what makes her a beautiful and strong woman. Even though the film did not receive a nomination last year, I hope that Ms. Farahani’s powerful performance is not overlooked as we head into the 2013 award season.
James R. Janowsky: What was your reaction after you read THE PATIENCE STONE screenplay?
Golshifteh Farahani: Well, first I read the book, and I didn’t read the screenplay. When I read the book I knew that this was a part I had to play, and I really did everything for that to happen. The writer who is also the director [Atiq Rahimi] really didn’t want me because he was thinking that I was bit too young and joyful. I knew that I should play it because it was this journey of this woman and her character, and all the contradictions and contrasts of her character. It is quite rare to find parts like this. So I absolutely wanted to play that part.
JRJ: There are several scenes where you are in a room alone with your husband who is comatose. Most actors, when they are acting, like to have someone that reacts to what they are performing. Did you have any anxiety initially to play those scenes, which are basically monologues?
GF: Yes, I think it is mainly a monologue, but a dialogue with herself, with her husband, with the Universe, but I think it is a dialogue where there is no answer in it. For me to act with a partner where there is no ping-pong, it’s just like playing at squash. So the camera became my partner, and all the movements of the camera and the existence of the camera was my only partner I had in that room… in that house. Of course the aunt and the soldiers and the children, but mainly the camera.
The amount of dialogue it felt like too much. It isn’t really my mother tongue language. It took me a long time to learn all these lines every night. It was a bit difficult, but also the director wanted me to say over and over all the dialogue… in the ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) and post-production we didn’t have anything to do because all the dialogue was there.
JRJ: You were working with the novelist who is also the co-screenwriter and the director. It must have given you assurance that he understood this character and this story so well.
GF: Yes. Yes, of course. He created her from the beginning. But the funny thing is that he trusted me to show him the character’s different dimensions that he created. But yeah, I could trust him fully.
JRJ: While your character was having this internal struggle, there was a conscious effort to make sure there was evidence of the outside forces and struggles, specifically the war, to show how it was affecting your character.
GF: Usually stories about Afghanistan, and things like that, the war is the main character, but in this movie the war is just the subtext. It is not the main thing. The war is happening outside. Of course the house is getting ruined. Everything is getting destroyed outside. But everything is constructing inside of her. Outside everything is broken and the neighbors are dead, but she is becoming stronger and stronger. Of course this war is something in the beginning – she is just a housewife and she’s afraid – but by the end she’s not afraid of anything. She doesn’t need anyone or anything. She knows how to deal with it herself. This is the evolution of the character.
JRJ: There is a moment early in the film where your character says to the husband, I’m paraphrasing, “You are the one wounded, but I am the one that is suffering.” But it seems that your character had been suffering for a long time.
GF: Yeah, I think with this husband and being silent, and this is the only way that the woman can talk, of course, in that area or many countries under the religion. She discovers many things. Of course she discovers that she is suffering. She discovers that it is not fair to suffer. She discovers as a human being that she was sexually suffering. She never had sexual pleasure, and little by little when she starts having sexually pleasure, she realizes that, wow! this body she has is not just for sexual torture and suffering, but she can take pleasure. This becomes a door to understand herself more in her soul, her mind, and even the essence of her being in a way…
Yes, I remember this line, “You are wounded, but I am the one suffering.” It is always like this. It is always the women that are carrying the weight of life in societies like this. But they don’t even realize, they think this is the way it is. But when they for the first time, like this woman, she discovers that it can be something else, too.
JRJ: I thought your scenes with the young soldier work well because you both have suffered. I think if the young soldier had been more complete, psychologically and physically, I don’t think it would have played as well.
GF: Yeah, because he has also been tortured and he has been raped by the other commander and the other man. So they have this thing in common. Both of them have been tortured and have suffered a lot.
JRJ: Initially she may not have realized it, but I thought it was the thing that drew her to him.
GF: Yeah, it’s true. In the beginning he raped her. But then she starts playing with him. Then she finds out that they have this thing in common, and she starts falling in love with him, and waiting for him. But then she says [to her husband], “don’t think I’m falling in love with him because I know that he also can become an animal like you.”
So they have this thing in common, and maybe that is the thing she trusts him, in a way. He is the only man in her life that he is letting her use him to take pleasure. She is teaching him how to do it, how to sleep with a woman. They have their own world together.
JRJ: Everything about the final scene rang true. I loved the decision to put you in burgundy and have you wearing burgundy lipstick. Who’s idea was it?
GF: I don’t think it was in the script. But we knew at the end that she should be very beautiful. She should be like a woman that you can’t resist—she’s like a mountain of fire, mountain of power. This lipstick, it is funny, because the children put it on and prostitute puts it on. I think it is like a flower; it is assuming that she is beautiful and she’s taking pleasure in being beautiful, and not hiding herself, not being like an animal, creature, black. In the beginning of the movie she is she’s really ugly. She’s dirty, ugly, she’s crying. I think this lipstick is like a flower that is so satisfied with her beauty. And she says that yes, I am beautiful, and all the bees can come and look at me. I’m beautiful.
THE PATIENCE STONE was released on August 14, 2013.
This interview originally appeared on the filmsinreview.com website.
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