The Stoning of Soraya M. (Blu-ray)
Every now and again you watch a movie that you really haven’t heard much about and are completely blown away. The Stoning of Soraya M. is that movie. Let’s be clear, this is not an easy movie to watch over an over. It’s spoken almost entirely in Farsi and becomes very graphic but it moved me to the bone.
This is based upon a true story, which makes it all the more heart wrenching. In 1986, Sahebjam’s (Jim Caviezel) car breaks down near a small village in Iran. As his car is getting fixed, a woman Zahra (Shohreh Aghdshloo) notices that he is a journalist and must tell him the story of her nieces stoning that just happened the day before. Soraya (Mozhan Marno) is in a dreadfully abusive relationship. Her husband plots to rid her by accusing her of adultery, which is punishable by death by stoning. Soraya’s only ally is her aunt who is the only voice who fights for Soraya’s innocence.
Shohreh Aghdshloo as the lone voice of reason is fantastic. She travels the gauntlet of emotions with huge control and presence. If I were a casting agent she would be at the top of my list. She was nominated for an Oscar for HOUSE OF SAND IN FOG but is not yet a household name (I do realize that Shoreh Aghdshloo is a silly name to consider household in the U.S.) but I have no doubt that she should be. Apparently, it was a low budget movie but still quite impressively put together. The camera work displaying the people, town and landscape is magnificent. Even the simple dialogue and plot leading up to the inevitable end result was captivating and suspenseful.
There is no spoil alert. The title tells you exactly what is to take place, which is nearly the entire shocking last 30 minutes. The details were quite impressive and apparently accurate for the ritual of a stoning. The children gather specific legal sized rocks for the people to throw and as they walk to their doom the people tap the stones together. The hands are tied and the accused is buried to their waste as the mob filled with family and friends watch and join in on the punishment. I’m sorry if I’m describing too specifically but for me it was these details that made it so powerful and to think that this still happens today in some parts of the world.
The film has one of the same producers of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST and I would guess one’s feelings toward that film might be similar to this one. And I’m talking not from a religious standpoint but from a human being standpoint. Like THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, THE STONING OF SORAYA M. fully displays this horrible punishment to those that are loosely convicted of a crime. Regardless of your views of capital punishment, I think most people can agree that it is inhumane to make one suffer to this degree especially without equal rights within the law.
Video: 2.35:1 Widescreen in 1080p HD. A clear picture with some nice cinematography but the video quality doesn’t jump out visually as many scenes are shot in small rooms against muted colors.
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio in Farsi with English Subtitles. This is a dialogue driven movie with minimal sound. The dialogue appears to be clear but since everyone is speaking Farsi, you’ll be reading the subtitles.
Audio Commentary with director and Co-Writer Cyrus Nowrasteh and Co-Writer Betsy Griffen Nowrasteh: A well-informed commentary by the husband and wife duo. She focuses on comparisons with the book while he covers a lot of the technical aspects filming the low budget picture. They both share numerous details about the actors or lack thereof when referring to the extras. A few of the times they sit quietly but breathe loudly. All in all a very insightful commentary that covers many perspectives.
Audio Commentary with Film Crew: This is definitely a far more technical aspect. They talk everywhere from clothing, to cars, to how much space they had to get a certain camera shot.
The Making of The Stoning of Soraya M. (43:03): Shot in Standard Definition, this is divided into 3 parts
Part 1-Inspiration: This covers mostly how they came across the story and the process of getting the rights to make the film.
Part 2- Production: On location, it captures a lot of the difficulty working with the extras and translators.
Part 3- Completion: Mostly about how they shot the stoning scene using prosthetics and a fake Soraya model. Lots of little mechanics, a hole for her to sit in and fake blood dripping from the head. It was all quite impressive.