France, Germany, Afghanistan


Somewhere, in Afghanistan or elsewhere, in a country torn apart by a war ... A beautiful woman in her 30s watches over her husband in a decrepit room. He is reduced to the state of a vegetable because of a bullet in the neck, and not only is he abandoned by his companions of the Jihad, but also by his brothers. One day, the woman starts a solitary confession to her silent husband. She talks about her childhood, her suffering, her frustrations, her loneliness, her dreams, her desires ... She touches him, kisses him, things she could never have done before, even though they have been married for the past ten years. Therefore, this paralysed man unconsciously becomes ‘syngué sabour’, a magic stone which, according to Persian mythology, when placed in front of a person shields him from unhappiness, suffering, pains and miseries. In this wait for her husband to come back to life, the woman struggles to survive and live. She finds refuge in her aunt’s place, who is a prostitute, and the only relative who understands her. The woman seeks to free herself from suffering through the words she delivers audaciously to her husband. But after weeks of looking after him, she will actually reveal herself in the relationship she starts with a young soldier …

Director's Statement

The book’s central idea is the myth of “Syngue Sabour”, a ‘patience stone’ on which you can shed your misfortunes, your complaints, your secrets until it’s so full it bursts. In this story, the stone is the husband, a warrior paralysed by a bullet in the neck. To bring him back to life, the woman has to pray for him during 99 days. But that prayer soon turns into confession. She whispers in his ears all the things she has kept locked inside for so many years. The first work to be made on the adaptation was to deconstruct the Romanesque narrative to reach a purely cinematographic dramaturgy. To get this effect, the narrative point of view was changed. Thus, the camera follows the woman out of the house, into the streets of Kabul, into the heart of the war. Outside, the camera is mobile, light, capturing situations on the spur of the moment. On the contrary, the interior scenes where sensuality, intimacy, phantasms, regrets, and remorse prevail, the camera focuses on characters’ feelings. Gracious and sensual, the camera slides through the woman’s intimate world, like a close friend. The film is also structured around flashback sequences making the narrative non-linear. However, the woman’s memories are not depicted by systematic and arbitrary flashbacks. It is always the present elements that bring the viewer back into the past. This is how the characters in the book – which only exist in the story told by the woman – come to life.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Atiq Rahimi

Written by: Jean-Claude Carrière, Atiq Rahimi

Produced by: Michael Gentile

Cinematography: Thierry Arbogast

Editing: Hervé de Luze

Production Design: Erwin Prib

Costume Design: Malek Djahan Khazai

Original Score: Max Richter

Sound: Dana Farzanehpour

Cast: Hassina Burgan, Massi Mrowat, Golshifteh Farahani, Hamidreza Javdan

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2013