If nothing else, this film is at least one that generates some interesting questions not only about the subject matter of the film, but what about it worked or didn’t work as a film itself. After the credits finished rolling I actually had to stop and decide whether or not I even liked it. Quite frankly, as I’m writing this, I’m still not sure.
Some basic things I can definitely say about the film are these: the characters are all one-dimensional archetypes, the plot is simple, slow paced and uncomplicated, but it’s beautifully shot and the acting is good. As far as the characters go, you have the innocent Soraya, her feminist and strong willed aunt, one fistful of deplorable men, and a slightly smaller fistful of men who are not quite as bad, but still deplorable all the same. For a nearly two hour long film, it certainly takes it time with the simplistic plot. I think that the problem I have with these issues is that things seem too simple. A film that obviously has a very strong viewpoint behind it needs, in my opinion, to create at least a semi-complex plot in order to make sure that it doesn’t come across as a propaganda piece. Especially for a film that is about stoning innocent women. I mean, I’m pretty sure no one needs to do any convincing here that I’m on the filmmaker’s side. Turns out I was just as opposed to stoning before the movie as I was afterward. It’s the kind of issue that doesn’t need reaffirming. I think if the film explored the complexities of a situation such as this it would have come across less preachy and more thought provoking. There’s never any real attempt to look at the issue at hand, rather just an in your face reminder that corporal rock-slinging is bad.
Moving onto the actual stoning itself—it was a scene that was incredibly hard to watch. It followed along the same brick road of the gratuitous violence that was the movie “The Passion of the Christ”. The scene itself was unbearably long and horribly gruesome. And as much as I get the point that its supposed to be hard to watch, that there is no sugar coating going on here, it doesn’t necessarily make the film any better. The scene is emotional, that’s for sure. I pretty much sat in my bed and sobbed through the over fifteen minute long stoning. So point taken, it made me feel horrible. I was ready to wave the white flag of emotional defeat long before the scene was over. As a device, gratuitous violence can be useful in film. Here though I question how necessary it really was.
I won’t spoil anything past the stoning, but lets just say that the film wraps up exactly how I expected it to—a neatly wrapped up tale of a horrible crime against humanity and a town of people who have to deal with the guilt of knowing they committed it.
Overall, if the director really just meant to send a message, he passed with flying colors. If he meant to make an enjoyable drama, he missed his mark. Take from the film what you will but I have to say, after spending some time to think about it, the film-making itself was good. As a complete package, it’s not one I’d be insisting my friends watch any time soon. That is, unless my friends are the “stoning people is cool” type.