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THE PATIENCE STONE

Director's Note
When I asked Jean-Claude Carriere to adapt my book The Patience Stone, he said "What are you expecting from me?"

"Betray me!" I answered.

It wasn't said in provocation, but through cinematic ambition. Because what is exciting and challenging for a writer-director is finding a way to exceed one's own book, to show and say in his film all the things he didn't manage to write using words.

The book's central idea is the myth of Syngue Sabour, the patience stone, a stone on which you can shed your misfortunes, your complaints, your secrets until it's so full it bursts. In this story, the stone is the husband, a warrior paralysed by a bullet in the neck. The woman, to bring him back to life, has to pray from morning till night for 99 days. But that prayer soon turns into confession. She murmurs into his ear all the things she has kept locked inside her for so many years.

As in my previous books, the characters evolve in extreme circumstances and in a single setting. Our film adaptation moves away from this static, theatrical situation, by rearranging the linear narrative to a more cinematic structure. By following the woman's point-of-view, the camera is able to leave the bedroom, to follow the main character out of the house, in to the streets of Kabul, into the heart of the war. The camera is mobile, light, wandering, like in Rosselini's Germany, year zero, giving the impression of capturing spontaneous moments. On the other hand, the interior scenes revolve around the heroine's thoughts and feelings. Sensuality, intimacy, dreams and phantasms, memories, regrets, and remorse prevail and haunt our heroine's mind. The camera harmonizes to the rhythm of the characters' emotions, to their very breaths. Supple, gracious, sensual, the camera slides through the bedroom, through the woman's intimate world, like a confidante, an accomplice.

The contrast between the two worlds, outside/inside, social/intimate, war/love... is interpreted by contrasting imagery and lighting: the crude exteriors, and those, soft and veiled, of the interior where the woman is lit like a source of light and colour, as can be seen in the miniature Persian carpets.

Passages lead from the present to the past, but the woman's memories aren't depicted as arbitrary flashbacks. It is always elements and situations in the present that lead us into the past; for example, the "combat quail" race scene that the heroine witnesses in the streets of Kabul, reflects not only what the character lived during her childhood, but transforms itself into a scene from her own memory. Likewise, the wedding party in the whorehouse reincarnates our main character's wedding. In this way the flashbacks play a more poetical than simply structural role.

This is how characters in the book, who only exist through the memories and stories told by the woman, come to life -- like the aunt who is a formative character in the life of our heroine, or her father, a breeder of combat quails.

-Atiq Rahimi

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