Sunday, March 2, 2008


Khalid Abdalla, Atossa Leoni, Shaun Toub, Zekeria Ebrahimi, Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada, Homayoun Ershadi

Cinema 1, Robinsons Galleria

"There is a way to be good again" is the tag line of this film adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's bestseller novel. I figure it was alluding to Amir, the main character's chance at redemption after some disturbing pitfalls from his childhood. A period bound by a strong brotherly bond with his friend, Hassan a Hazara servant boy in his father's employ. But also a period marred with betrayals, distrust and failed misgivings. The tag line is contemplative and suits the gist of the story.

Unfortunately or fortunately as the case may be, I read Hosseini's gripping novel and I would say there is much to be desired with Amir's chance of redeeming his soul from his guilty past. I had nothing but contempt for Amir's weak nature when I read his story unfold page after page. Yet at the same time, I admire the author's narrative about Amir's life. You understand where this weakness stems from, why he has a very low self esteem. Everything Amir did was to become a better person in the eyes of his rather demanding father. Hassan was a vital part of his life yet at the same time Amir always felt inferior vis a vis Hassan's skills at kite running. Hassan in a manner of speaking had the "it" factor yet he also knew his humble position in society. Alright so I won't delve into a psychoanalysis of a flawed fictional character (Amir) and just go back to my impressions on the film.

I watched it with my fiance who didn't read the novel. He gave mostly positive feedback on the film. I do agree with his observations. It is a poignant tale of friendship during a period of great upheavals both for the characters and the troubled land they called home. It had endearing well developed characters especially the young Hassan. He is portrayed in the film by a young boy with such boyish charm you just want to reach out and give him a big hug. It was also interesting to watch Baba jan, Amir's father. His transition from a wealthy, respectable merchant in Afghanistan to a clerk in a convenience store in the US was a heartfelt performance. He was one of my favorite characters in the novel and in the movie too for that matter.

The fact that the dialogue is mostly in the native tongue of Afghanistan was a significant factor, giving it some local flavor. But mostly the film was a visceral testament to the turmoils that Afghanistan went through the years. From its heydays, followed by the Soviet invasion then the reign of the Taliban it is all historically accurate. A picturesque cinematography was visually appealing. Scenes of snow capped mountainous terrain to the war ravaged scenes of bare streets, the landscape was depicted, realistically. The film soared high during the kite flying competition. It was magical watching those vibrant colored kites fluttering in the clear blue kites You can almost feel the wind in your face. The opening credits in the beginning of the film graphically presented on the screen with beautiful Arabic/Persian calligraphy is a clever work of artistic talent. Giving the film yet again an ethnic tone.

So to answer my earlier pondering:
Is the movie a good adaptation of the novel?
Yes, Marc Forster's adaptation was concise. It was a neatly edited, well directed poignant film. The controversial scene about the disturbing incident (which for me is the main turning point in the novel) wasn't vulgar. No cringing awkward moment.

Or was it a big letdown like "Memoirs of a Geisha"?
Not at all. In fact I dare say it is better than the novel, which was a bit tedious to read. But of course a film adaptation won't or can't capture all the nitty gritty details in the book. Overall the main gist of the story was well conveyed without losing its key emotional elements. Naturally to get a better understanding of the characters' inner conflicts, it is advisable to read the book before you watch the movie. But if you have no intention of reading the book, the movie itself can stand on its own merit.

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