Stoning loses impact through convoluted plot structure

2009-06-27T00:00:00Z Stoning loses impact through convoluted plot structureDevin Heller
Times Correspondent
June 27, 2009 12:00 am  • 

"The Stoning of Soraya M." is a film that seems at odds with its own convoluted nature. Attempting to tell the true story of an instance of injustice due to the barbaric custom of stoning in Iran, this film comes across as being both morally curious and grossly stereotypical.

A French journalist named Freidoune wanders into a small Iranian village after his car breaks down on a dry mountain road. Freidoune finds in this unassuming village a tale of corruption that outlines a violent conspiracy to commit murder. Freidoune listens to the story of a local woman who has been deemed insane by the majority of the male citizenry.

An Arab woman named Zahra disregards the laws of Islam to right the unjust murder of her niece. This straightforward and outwardly stubborn woman secretly takes in Freidoune and tells him a chilling albeit biased account of a despicable scheme that came to fruition only a day before Freidoune happened upon the village.

Ali, a ruthless and manipulative local prison guard has taken a liking to a prisoner's daughter. An affluent doctor who has been sentenced to death, the prisoner barters with Ali to gain his freedom. Ali asks for the doctor's 14-year-old daughter to be his wife. The only problem is, Ali already has a wife and four children.

His current spouse, Soraya is a loyal, independent woman who works diligently to care for her children. Ali announces his plans to leave Soraya, and Soraya refuses to accept his meager terms.

Unable to legally divorce Soraya without reason, Ali plots to accuse her of adultery. Using blackmail and coercion, Ali uses the village sheik and a recent widower to wrongfully convict his wife of infidelity. As the title suggests, the punishment for this accusation is death by stoning.

This film attempts to convey the appalling nature of the completely male dominated justice system in Iran. Ali's blatantly simplistic plan is meant to communicate a cultural injustice, but it comes across as longwinded for its purposes.

The length at which Ali and his co-conspirators hatch their murderous plot is ultimately cumbersome to the overall message of this film. The fact that women, no matter how faithful or morally righteous can have their rights stripped from them so effortlessly is a sad circumstance that loses its potency along the course of this longwinded film.

Another aspect of the movie that is almost unbearable is its extremely graphic climax. The scene where Soraya is wrongfully stoned is entirely too vivid. This multi-minute torture scene loses its impact.

Though its many inadequacies render it almost ineffective, there is a profound message about cultural injustice within this film that draws a definite parallel to the current situation in Iran. The way in which this film dissects the complex cultural issues surrounding Islamic culture seems to come across as being heavily right-wing motivated because of its emphasis on dramatization and disturbingly graphic violence.

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