The Stoning of Soraya M.-2008
Top 10 Disturbing Films-#2
Reviewed February 18, 2017
The Stoning of Soraya M. is a brutal film, and one of the most disturbing films that I have ever seen. I have viewed the film a total of two times and that is enough for me. The terrifying aspect of the film is that the story is true and the events depicted not only have happened to the woman featured, but happen to women day in and day out in certain cultures. The film is a frightening reminder of the atrocities of human suffering.
The film is an American Persian language film made in 2008. Academy Award nominee, Shohreh Aghdashloo, stars as a woman living in a remote village in Iran- the time period is 1986. Interestingly, the film begins following the events that conclude the story and works in reverse. A reporter who has car trouble and is lost in the village is taken by the aunt of Soraya (Aghdashloo) who must tell the journalist the painful story of a tragedy that befell poor Soraya the day before. Soraya was brutally stoned to death, wrongfully accused of adultery, and the journalist wisely records the aunt’s tale with his tape recorder. The journalist must then escape the village alive in order for Soraya’s story to be told to the masses.
From this point the film transfers to several days earlier. Soraya’s abusive husband, Ali, wishes to divorce Soraya so that he can marry a fourteen year old girl from the village. When she refuses, Ali uses manipulation and blackmail to turn many in the village against Soraya, including her two teenage sons. Ali convinces everyone that Soraya has been unfaithful to him with a widower who Soraya innocently works for. Ali is then granted his divorce and Soraya is sentenced to be stoned, as an example, in front of the entire village. The message is clear- women are not equal to men and are not permitted to do the things that men can.
Throughout the film we get to know Soraya and she does have her loyal female friends and supporters. Aghdashloo portrays Soraya with gusto and bravery and the fact that we care for the character so much makes the inevitable stoning sequence heartbreaking and painful to watch.
When Soraya is chained to a short pole and buried up to her neck so that she cannot move, the scene of her victimization is almost unbearable to watch. Ali and her sons are the first to cast the stones that strike her square in the head. Director, Nowrasteh provides the stoning sequence with a dull, muted sound so that we almost experience the thuds of the rocks from Soraya’s perspective, making the scene all the more chilling. The scene also goes on for seemingly an eternity as it takes a long time for Soraya to succumb to her many wounds. Needless to say, she is a bloody mess and unrecognizable. This scene is not for the squeamish.
How disheartening to know that experiences like Soraya’s still occur to this day in Iran and many other countries and there is not much that is done to help. The Stoning of Soraya M. is based on a 1990 book, Le Femme Lapidee, written by Freidoune Sahebjam, who appears in the film as the journalist. The book has been banned in Iran.
The Stoning of Soraya M. is one of the most disturbing films that I have ever seen and as much as the message is tragic and painful, I never want to see this film again. The pain rings too real and the thought fills me with sadness.