And now, in this quietly fierce condemnation of fundamentalist Muslim society's treatment of women, she begins to speak truths she dared not utter when he was awake. The Patience Stone, adapted from the Atiq Rahimi novel and directed by the author - aided in no small measure by Thierry Arbogast's remarkable cinematography - finds the woman telling her husband about the men who fathered her daughters, because he was impotent. She talks of her longings, her rage. After weeks of these confessions, something stirs, breaks free. She meets a soldier (Massi Mrowat), and they make love.
In Persian mythology, the patience stone is a magical talisman that absorbs the worries and woe of those who confide in it. For the woman, her husband becomes that stone. It's a process of catharsis, allowing her to move on - and allowing the audience a glimpse into a culture of religious fervor, sexual oppression, violence, fear.
Although the country goes unnamed in this powerful, parable-like film, it is clearly Afghanistan, torn apart by war, a culture dominated by men, by mullahs.
But what comes across more than anything - in Farahani's character, in the wisdom and wild humor displayed by her aunt (Hassina Burgan) - is the resilience of women. Beneath the hijabs and the burkas that conceal them, a spirit burns fast and strong.
The Patience Stone *** (out of four stars)
Directed by Atiq Rahimi.
With Golshifteh Farahani,
Hamidrez Javdan, Hassina Burgan,
and Massi Mrowat. In Dari with subtitles. Distributed by
Sony Pictures Classics.
Running time: 1 hour, 42 mins.
Parent's guide: R (violence, sex, adult themes).
Playing at: Ritz Bourse and Carmike at the Ritz Center/NJ.
Contact Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @Steven_Rea. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.inquirer.com/onmovies.