Baba looks at his son intently, considering his son’s query about his own sins of drinking. “There is only one sin, only one,” he started . “And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.” That quote gives a good insight into not only into the kind of movie that ‘The Kite Runner’ is, but also into the team behind it.
I’ve been looking forward to this film because of the storyline, which intrigued me. I was also looking forward to see the mish-mash of characters that engulfs this film (essentially an American production adapting well-known Afghan novel, with the dialogue in both Dari and English. Ultimately, I was also looking forward to the collaboration of the people behind the camera; namely, the scriptwriter David Benioff and director Marc Forster.
The line above, then, perfectly illustrates this mixture of people. It is a very Hollywood quote, the sort of stuff you would only see in Western movies. More specifically, it’s the sort of stuff that would come from Benioff’s mind. He has previously scripted the likes of ’25th Hour’ (as excellent as any ‘in your face’ scripts could be), ‘Troy’ (which me and my friends had quoted plenty of times back in our uni days), and is also the writer for the upcoming ‘Wolverine’ movie. It’s been a five-star journey for him, and I am a big fan of him. Then again, this is an adaptation of a book by Khaled Hosseini. Since I haven’t read the book, I don’t know how much of the original stuff makes its way on screen. Credit, then, should also be given to the author.
I am also a big fan of the director Marc Forster, who, despite building up an excellent resume of good movies, has yet to reach superstardom. Yes, ‘Monster’s Ball’ and ‘Finding Neverland’ were successful in their own right, and ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ really deserved more credit than many gave it. He may find fame beckoning after completing the upcoming Bond flick, which I had down as the film that will make him.
In many ways, I was wrong. ‘The Kite Runner’ is as defining a film as anyone could have hoped to have on their resume. The story of the friendship between Amir and Hassan, and how that disintegrated, was very well thought of, and cleverly executed. It’s like a big, big circle, in which all of the loose ends were round up, giving you a rare sense of completion.
In truth, the relationship between the two is more akin to brothers rather than mere friends. Set in Kabul, ‘Runner’ begins in America; Amir (Khalid Abdalla), having just received copies of his new book, also receives a phone call from his father’s friend, Rahim Khan (Shaun Toub). Rahim pleads with him to return to Afghanistan. He wants Amir to return to take care of Sohrab, the son of Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada ) who he had fallen out with years earlier.
We then cut to a flashback, where we’ll be for more than half of the film. Here, we see how the friendhip of Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) and Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) grows. Amir is the son of a rich man (Homayoun Ershadi), whose home also houses his friend and servant Ali (Nabi Tanha), Hassan’s father.
Once again, I call in the great script to come in and do their part. In an early scene, when fighting with other cuts, they manage to cut a kite. Keen to claim the kite, Amir runs hard and fast towards where he thinks the kite would fall. Suddenly, he finds Hassan sitting down on the road, calmly claiming that the kite will fall here. “Have I ever lied to you?” asks Hassan. “How should I know?” “I’d rather eat dirt,” says Hassan. “Would you really do that if I told you to?” Amir asks. “If you asked, I would.” Pause. “But would you really want me to?” “Are you crazy?” Amir retorts, “You know I wouldn’t.” Hassan nods. “I know.”
Another scene, wherein some bullies begin to threaten them, Hassan steps in and stands up for them with a ready slingshot. “Perhaps,” the bully starts, “you don’t see that there are three of us, and only two of you.” “Perhaps,” Hassan retorts, “you fail to see the slingshot in my hands.” Slightly cheesy, perhaps, but how very satisfactory, and it even becomes an important element much later on.
Of course, a talk of ‘Runner’ cannot be complete without fully discussing the “rape” scene. It is a turning point in both the movie and in the boys’s relationship. Amir, witnessing Hassan being raped by the bullies, didn’t do anything about it. Overcome with guilt, Amir begins to treat Hassan harshly. It grew to the point that they drifted apart, underlined by Amir and his father fleeing the country when the Soviets came in.
I put in the quotation marks around the word rape, because in my opinion…there is very little with the scene that should have courted controversy. I was more perturbed with a scene where a woman was being stoned for adultery than with the rape scene. Had that happened earlier, we might have more hardcore feminists protesting this movie than child activists does. Nevertheless, as is the norm with any multi-cultural, multi-national endeavour, great care must be taken to ensure that sensitivities are respected.
Having read up on the issue online, it appears that within Afghani cultures at least, filmic depictions is as big a part of real life as real life itself. “I want to continue make films and be an actor but the rape scenes upset me because my friends will watch it and I won’t be able to go outside anymore. They will thin that I was raped,” said Ahmad. Though the filmmakers used a body double for the scene, a deeper research (and a more honest approach) would have revealed this, and the mess caused would have been more limited. As it stands, the two young leads, with two other extras, were relocated to the United Arab Emirates.
However, we shan’t let that get in the way of this movie. It is beautiful movie in so many ways, helped greatly by Roberto Schaefer’s cinematography (he’ll also shoot ‘Quantum of Solace’). The kite flying scenes, in particular, were amazing. You’ll surprise yourself at how amazing. Yes, it’s CG-ed, but it still manages to inspire a child-like sense of wonder at such a simple thing. My own efforts at flying kites, last attempted almost 15 years ago, were not as spectacular. Much to my disappointment, I very much doubt whether I’ll be doing it any time soon. My generation’s moved on.
The roles are also incredibly well cast (you can see the huge similarities between the child and adult Amir). It helps that the actors are all very talented. The symbolism within the movie is also poignant. The last thing Amir’s father does before leaving the country was to bend down to the earth, and scoop up a small amount of it into a small container. Such love for one’s country, and all shown with a bunch of dirt.
However, there’s no other way for me to end this review with anything other than a line from the movie. In their most epic kite battle, Amir manages to cut the last kite, setting Hassan off to look for it. It was the last scene before Hassan gets raped, which probably wouldn’t have happened had Hassan heeded Amir’s words. “No, Hassan, you don’t have to.” Hassan turns back, and smiles.
“For you, a thousand times over.”
Fikri doesn’t need kites to get high…