If Scheherazade had told all of her stories, Shahriar wouldn’t have had slaves to worship him anymore.
“Those who don’t know how to make love make war,” said by the film’s heroine. This quote summarizes the film in which the Iranian actress, Golshifteh Farahani, plays the lead. The film recounts the story of an Afghan woman who cares for her sick husband who used to be a fighter. He was in a coma as a result of a gunshot in his neck. She starts narrating her story and secrets as she has the chance to speak freely for the first time. The name “Afghanistan” is not mentioned actually all through the film, neither is the heroine’s or her husband’s name. The result is the film sheds light on similar patriarchal societies torn by war. The screenplay uses the symbolic echoes of Scheherazade to represent a voice of a marginalized woman’s voice, which, once unleashed, owns unlimited powers. The film also draws from the Afghan myth, the Stone of Patience, in which a jewel (the stone of patience) absorbs the cares of those who trust it until it is filled up with their sad stories and explodes.
At the beginning, the wife starts by supplicating to God to save her husband/ tormentor in an image that can be used universally for all people who fear freedom and get used to their tormentor, their patriarch and dictator. The Mullah’s visits are frequent to recite his supplication for the husband’s recovery. The wife recalls her childhood when she was brought up by a tough father who liked his birds, and betting in bird fights, more than his wife and daughters. He had no problem marrying his daughters off to an elderly man just for paying off his losing bet. Then he marries off the heroine to a fighter on the frontline, but the groom doesn’t attend the wedding. In his place is his photo with his dagger, in a scene which is kind of similar to surrealism. When the wife finds out later that her husband is sterile, she finds herself forced to go to her prostitute aunt, who arranges meetings for her with blindfolded men to impregnate her, preventing her husband from marrying another wife. While telling the story about her husband, she starts playing with his body and body parts for the first time, and after she had gotten used to being subject to his desires, he then becomes her tool. After this purifying narration, her body is turned on, and she takes the lead in a sexual relationship with a young man. He comes from a militia he was recruited to as a child, and he suffers from speech difficulties and was exposed to torture by his leader. The relationship grows between the two defeated victims, restoring part of their lost dignity and regaining control on their bodies and desires.
The film director, Atiq Rahimi, also the author of the novel the movie is based on, employs minimalism, using minimal places and focuses, like the house curtain that is embroidered with birds and the change of shade and light with the change of daytime. The film has only one revenge scene, which summarizes the war atrocities.
The film has many characteristics of mono-drama as the heroine’s voice is predominant, but, despite that, we don’t feel bored. The use of suspense, which depends on the showdown, keeps the viewer interested. Also, the actress’s charming performance captivates us, as her voice is poetic and attractive. In addition, in the zooming shots of the heroine’s eyes and face there are thousands of words expressed which are full of the feelings of joy, sadness, confusion, and fear…
The film ends with a symbolic scene. The husband, who is the “patience stone,” after being overinflated with his wife’s stories, bursts and gets up to take revenge against her. She stabs him, and he suffocates her, so they die together. The camera focuses on her smiling face. Scheherazade has revived her status and restored herself, so she left victorious. It is as if we hear the resonance of the feminist poet’s voice saying, “What will happen if the woman narrates her real life story? The world will be shaking.” So if Scheherazade had told all of her stories, Shahriar wouldn’t have had slaves to worship him anymore.
Scenes from the film