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Stoning of Soraya M: Cuts Deep Emotionally

Posted on the 06 February 2013 by Haricharanpudipeddi @pudiharicharan
Stoning of Soraya M: Cuts Deep Emotionally

Movie: Stoning of Soraya M.

Director: Cyrus Nowrasteh

Cast: Shohreh Aghdashloo, Jim Caviezel and Mozhan Marno

Rating: ****

The opening line in the film aptly defines what’s about to unfold – Don’t act like the hypocrite, Who thinks he can conceal his wiles, While loudly quoting the Koran – Hafez, 14th Century Iranian Poet. “Stoning of Soraya M”, a true story, is just one of the examples of barbaric acts administered in the name of capital punishment in a religion. It’s depressing but true that women in most parts of the world are still not treated on par with men. This film teleports you to a land where women are no less than machines that can do manual labour, quench sexual urge and raise family despite being treated like a ‘dog’ by her husband.

It’s a man’s world in Kupayeh, Iran. In the wake of rose-pink light of dawn, Zahra, a widow, walks in solitude to the nearby river to bury the leftover of her niece Soraya, who was brutally executed the previous evening for a crime she never committed.

Meanwhile, Freidoune Sahebjam, a French Journalist-cum-writer with middle-eastern roots, comes to Zahra’s village after his car breaks down en route to Iran. On seeing him, Zahra realizes that he is a writer. She walks up to him, introduces herself in English and warns him about the maliciousness side of the men in the village. She secretly invites him home to reveal the shocking story of Soraya.

At the outset, let me clarify by stating that this film is not technically rich but on the contrary, it has characters that steer the film towards excellence with sheer talent and raw performance. There are only two feelings with which you can associate yourself with the film – anger and sympathy. It makes you angry at the misuse of power by local bigwigs. You shower sympathy on Soraya, as stones are being hurled at her body, which is buried up to waist level in a hole dug on the occasion. It’s so sadistic that you might need to disengage from the cinematic experience to pave way to a dose of reality.

The performances of the actors are awe-inspiring. Both, Zahra and Soraya, played by Shohreh and Mozhan respectively, are such strong actors that they literally permeate into the skin of their characters. It’s a known fact that a woman’s battle in the Middle East for mere survival is tough, but the way director Cyrus Nowrasteh presents the story, it’s not easy to believe what you see.

With great detailing, Cyrus depicts the public execution, which according to me is next best to “Passion of the Christ”. The stoning sequence, which lasts close to 20 minutes, is not easy to digest, as the camera mostly captures the agony of the battered face of Soraya, disfigured and covered with blood. The scene, before the stoning, where kids are seen collecting stones of equal size in a wheelbarrow, men gathered in sheer excitement, paves way to high level of tension. 

Cyrus, at the helm of the affairs, doesn’t take time to explain the history of stoning in Iran. Instead, he takes us through the horror of stoning through the eyes of the perpetrators and the victims. The title is so intriguing that the fate of the film is inevitable. As a viewer, you anxiously wait for the moment to arrive but when it finally comes, you loathe from the inside.

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