The Stoning of Soraya M.

Posted by schnolis on July 14th, 2009 filed in Reviews

THE STONING OF SORAYA M.I consider myself a bit of a philosopher. I I enjoy learning about fascinating ideas, overarching concepts and the big picture. One topic that often comes up is morality. Morality is a complicated subject that is still studied frequently today. Jonathan Haidt, a moral psychologist at the University of Virginia defines it thus: “Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, practices, institutions, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible.” At its heart The Stoning of Soraya M. is about our moral systems and how they worked against an individual Iranian woman.

Soraya is unhappily married to Ali. Their family life strained by his desire for a divorce so he can marry a more wealthy girl. Soraya will not accede to this as she would be left unable to provide for the children. She is aided by her Aunt Zahra, the most respected woman in the tiny rural town, but even together there’s little they can do. Women aren’t respected enough in the traditionalist Islamic culture to have a say. Ali schemes to have Soraya accused of adultery, which he succeeds in after intimidating a local simpleton to testify against his wife. Eventually the entire town comes to stand against Soraya, accusing her of violating the will of God, and demanding her death by stoning.

The stoning scene itself is the focus of the film. Soraya arms are tied to her side and then she gets buried up to her waist in the ground. Starting with the people who should have loved her the most, including her father, her husband and her children, they pick up stones and hurl them at her, inflicting bloody welts and open sores on top of what must have been exceptionally painful bruising. The unadulterated barbarism is shocking to modern sensibilities, but this is not a film about ancient times. Stonings still occur in the extremely restrictive cultures still haunting the world, mostly to women.

Soraya is killed due to a cultural preference for males in her society. Their moral systems failed to protect her because she wasn’t deemed to be as important. This is the reason we must fight against discrimination of all sorts. Whenever people are marginalized and deemed of lower status than others, then incredible justifications for wronging those people can be and are made. We must speak out against such barbaric cultures, religions, beliefs, and principles whenever possible. The story of Soraya informs us of the consequences of inaction.

What I liked: The movie was well made, and was beautiful (if heartbreaking) to watch. The women were fantastic and strong despite the limitations of their status, and carried the movie for the men. I thought the portrayal of the stoning itself was a visceral, difficulty scene. It wasn’t a short scene that glossed over the gore or the brutality. It felt painfully anachronistic and chilling to see it occurring in a modern time.

What I disliked: While the movie seemed polished and professional, some of the scenes seemed to be unnecessary movie conflict. There was clearly enough material in the film to do without the trite car chase scene at the end. The men’s roles were too simple, but most likely only because the women’s performances were nuanced, subtle and important.

Rating: 7 of 10

Leave a Comment