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THE KITE RUNNER – Personal challenge serves as atonement

Starring: Homayan Ershadi, Shaun Toub and Khalid Abdalla
Director: Marc Forster
Rated: M

THIS is a very moving film which can be recommended. The novel, The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, topped the best-seller lists for a long time and developed a devoted following.

 

As with most film adaptations, readers who cherish the novel express their disappointment at what has been omitted or at the different emphases on characters.

Listening to some of the readers speak about their disappointments, I found that what they did not find in the film was actually what I experienced.

Practically all of what they valued had been communicated to me as a film viewer.

A page of text might be conveyed in only a few moments through a richly designed set, costumes and a facial gesture.

But the reader misses the experience of reading the text and dwelling on it and so does not always perceive what can be conveyed and communicated in even some seconds of moving images and sound.

It seems to me on listening to the readers that The Kite Runner is a respectable adaptation – many readers tend to forget that the film is not the novel itself but an adaptation to a different medium and is an interpretation of the novel.

The Kite Runner offers glimpses of Afghanistan from the 1970s, times of greater peace and prosperity for many despite the Communist rumblings, through the 1980s and the Russian invasion to the 1990s and the rule of the Taliban.

The film concludes in the year 2000. For most of us who have general impressions of and ideas about Afghanistan which have now been overshadowed by the conflict since 2001, the film could be something of an eye-opener.

The central character is Amir, a young lad from a well-to-do family who idolises his father who, he thinks, does not think highly of him.

His best friend is a servant Hassan, the son of the manager of the household.

Together, along with the children of Kabul, they excell in flying kites (a great symbol of freedom and exhilaration) and are determined to win the city competition (as the boy’s father had done years earlier).

The servant boy is a devoted friend, loyal, loving, Hassan becomes the victim of a crisis which will haunt Amir and torment him in regret for the way in which he acted.

The family escapes the Russians by fleeing, with great danger, to Pakistan and thence to the United States. The sequence where Amir’s father stands on principle against the Russian soldier wanting to exploit the women is impressive.

 

The central part of the film portrays the migrant experience in America in the 1980s and 1990s, education, work, becoming acclimatised, the brashness of the younger generation and the hardships of the older generation who have had to assume a completely different way of life and work in more menial circumstances than they did at home.

The experience is both an American welcome and a humiliation.

The third part of the film shows the now adult Amir returning in secret to Afghanistan to seek out Hassan’s son and rescue him.

We are amazed and appalled (but, perhaps, not surprised) to see the havoc that the Taliban have wrought on Kabul, on society and on people’s rights and security.

There is a personal challenge for Amir which serves as a kind of atonement for what he did and did not do as a spiteful child.

And kite-flying is again the symbol of freedom and, now, of hope.

The performances, especially of the young Hassan who is memorable and Homayan Ershadi who is very moving as the father, are fine and convincing.

So, too, are the locations – and it is something of a shock to find that The Kite Runner’s Afghanistan sequences were actually filmed in China (Kabul, the city, the desert and all).

Direction is by Marc Forster, the Swiss director who made a mark with Monster’s Ball and has since made films in a variety of genres: Finding Neverland, Stay, Stranger than Fiction. He is slated to direct the next James Bond film.

The Kite Runner is a film he can be proud of.

 

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