Sunday, August 16, 2015

Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet [2014]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB ()  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub ()  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
ChicagoTribune (R. Moore) review (P. Sobczynski) review
AVClub () review  

Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet [2014] (directed by Roger Allers, et al, screenplay by Roger Allers along with Hanna Weg and Douglas Wood based on the acclaimed spiritual book [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by turn of the 20th century Lebanese author Kahlil Gibran [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) offers a gentle introduction to the immensely popular text.

As in the book, so too in the current animated film (Al)Mustafa (voiced in the film by Liam Neeson), a spiritual leader, who has spent 12 years on an island outside of a fictionalized town called Orphalese, is about to go home.  A ship has come to take him to his homeland (or "homeland").

Now why was (Al)Mustafa on "the island" to begin with?  The book is (deliberately) unclear.  The film is much more specific (but certainly offers a credible explanation for both that time-in-history, and perhaps even ours.  After all, the story plays out near the Eastern Mediterranean / Western Middle East, hence in "the land of I.S.I.S." and all kinds of extremist militias).

As in the book, so in the movie, BEFORE (Al)Mustafa departs (or "departs" ... in both the book and the film the actual and certainly ultimate manner of his "departure" also remains vague) HE'S ASKED A NUMBER OF SPIRITUAL QUESTIONS by the people coming together to bid him farewell, which provides him opportunity to give sage advice about love, work, marriage, time, etc.

His answers, generally given in in the book 1-2 page poetic vignettes, make up the bulk of the small 60-or-so-page text.  The film expounds in generally lovely / gentle / colorful animated fashion on four or five of his answers.

Since the bulk of the 60-or-so-page book is in effect (Al)Mustafa preaching to the people, before "departing", the film does take _some_ imaginative liberties with the book to tell the story.

Notably, it dramatizes (Al)Mustafa's leaving of his "little house outside of town" and his walk to the town and its harbor.  (Al) Mustafa is portrayed as having a (widowed) house keeper, named Kamila (voiced by Salma Hayek) who, in turn, has a little 6-7 year-old daughter Almitra (voiced by Quvenzhané Wallis).  Note that that Almitra is imagined/portrayed quite differently in the original book than she in the film.  Together with a guard named Halim (voiced by John Krasinski), Kamila and Almitra help (Al) Mustafa travel down from his "little house outside of town" into town.

It all makes for a lovely story and for a nice, but certainly not only, perhaps even _intentionally_ limiting (concretizing) interpretation of the book.

So while not necessary to understand the story presented in the film, getting-hold-of and reading the 60-or-so page book both beforehand and perhaps especially _afterwards_ will help one appreciate the specific artistry and choices made in the film.

IMHO the book [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] is far more general in scope than the film.  However, as I've already suggested, the choices made by the film-makers make for an interesting, even compelling (and perhaps unfortunately still all too timely) interpretation of the book.

Good job folks!  Very good job!

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