Adapted to Film, The Patience Stone Loses Its Abstract Subtleties


Atiq Rahimi’s slender, wrenching novel The Patience Stone lays bare the heart of a devout Afghan woman, a Muslim who shields her face from her community and her truest self from her husband, a jihadist hero many years her senior. Rahimi works in miniature, in brief, detail-minded paragraphs separated by full section breaks so that individual moments and observations accumulate into a full yet abstracted portrait of the story’s central drama. That husband lies comatose, a bullet in his neck, and his wife must try to care for him and their children as bombs and soldiers tear apart her city. The movie makes all this single-room, beating-her-breast stuff more punishing than the novel does, and less rewarding as well. Directing his adaptation of his book, Rahimi spackles those isolated moments into workaday scenes, the inner spaces of the novel now articulated by the actress, Golshifteh Farahani, who is more extraordinary than the movie around her. The more typical approach transforms the material, and not for the better—rather than a revelation about how it feels to live her life, this feels like a document of what that life might look like as a conventional, often pokey movie. Still, the woman’s monologues detailing her sexual life, delivered to an unhearing man, retain their vital power, and these scenes stand as a valuable contribution to world cinema.