Film Critique – The Prophet written By Manisha

By Manisha

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is an animated film adapted from Kahlil Gibran’s book The Prophet. The film produced by Salma Hayek and directed by Rogers Allers. It collaborates the artistic talents of 9 different animators to bring eight of the Lebanese poet’s most famous pieces from The Prophet to life.

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The movie’s story is about Mustafa, (voiced by Liam Neeson) a foreign poet, a painter and a deemed political activist being held under house arrest. Tending to his daily needs is his housekeeper Kamila (voiced by Salma Hyek), a widowed mother of Almitra, a mischievous young girl who has lost her voice in grief but when she does speak its Quvenzhane Wallis who delivers her lines. Supported by a guarding soldier Halim, Seagulls, a vicious sergeant and eager villagers the movie unfolds itself in a walk through a fictional Mediterranean Village in the form of 6 recitals and Two songs.

The beauty about the book “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran is that it has the most profound life lessons conveyed in the simplest possible way. Nothing that is in it is not written elsewhere, but yes, it has been conveyed in the most un-complicated manner. Which is what I think the author would have expected from the movie, something the movie fails to deliver.

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“Un-complicated” is the word of my choice here for a reason. If you read the book it is simple. In fact, despite the immense popularity of Khalil Gibran’s writing, the Prophet was panned by many critics who thought his writings were simplistic and naïve. But it was because of this simple, “un-complicated” writing style that he appealed to the masses and that is why it has spread so widely across cultures.

What the movie has done is completely different. Sure enough it has some of the best animators, creative thinkers, conglomeration of art, colorful, swirling and transforming animations, but are they simple?, are they un-complicated to usual young fans of animated dramas?, my answer would be “NO”. For instance the piece on Freedom directed by Michal Socha with the crows, the caw’s, the Grill man, the snake was dark and confusing to a point that my younger son completely lost interest in the movie and had a completely unrelated sets of questions like “why did the snake eat the crow?” Or “why did the big crow kill the small one?”. It may represent freedom to a more mature audience, but if the film way anyway aimed at a more mature audience then why animate it in the first place?

Two of the other segments include couples kissing fairly passionately. The Love segment has a very visual display of lovers getting injured and blood, The complexity of the other segments, the dialogues and the big themes might be a bit overwhelming for a younger audience and that brings me back to my earlier argument that if it was not meant for younger fans then why animate it and take away from the life changing lessens that the book has to offer to older audiences or even teens who can benefit from thought-provoking exploration of life’s bigger issues.

The “On work” segment directed by septuagenarian artist Joan Gratz may be visually mesmerizing the constant swirling and changing vignettes of other segments may appleal to the eye but they fail to transform you to a level of consciousness that the book would have even if it were just simply read to you without the music or the 2D animation.

By far John Sfar directed “On Marriage”, is perhaps the only vignette that illustrated the message in a very “un-complicated” way through an intimate tango that lovers should retain a sense of self within their togetherness. It’s clear, yet again, not maybe for the younger audience.

The music is uplifting and matches the mood. Irish siren Lisa Hannigan and Glen Hansard’s duet, “On Love,” is a delight, and Yo-Yo Ma contributes his talents to the reminiscent score by Gabriel Yared. Neeson’s instantly recognizable Irish accent provides depth to the voice of Mustafa, however a combination of various accents including Irish & American seem like a misfit in a ottoman/Mediterranean city.

As for the producer of the film, Salma Hayek there is nothing not to like in her. She is known to have a mind of her own. Her passion towards her work is nothing less than inspiring. She goes for the un-conventional and as a producer of the Prophet, she has not only embodied the first Arabic poet in her film, but also brought together the work of independent animators who’ve maintained their freedom of expression in a commercialized industry.

Renowned for his work in Lion King Roger Allers has considerably reworked the narrative wraparound with mixed results. As a child I have watched Lion King more than a 100 times. And as an adult when I watched it again with my child I still cried, I still laughed, I still felt the pain and yes I still felt the goose bumps when the falling raindrops turned into a spectacular stampede of wilder beasts. Sure enough the makers of “The Prophet” did not have the budget to create visual miracles created by 600 Disney artisans for Lion King,, but you don’t need money to create magic.

The book, “The Prophet by Khalil Gibran” is a literary masterpiece of 26 prose poetry. Sure enough the task of showcasing all this profound wisdom in a single movie is magnanimous task and calls for a lot of hard work and passion very visible throughout the film. How I wish the intent of the messages would have been as visible. Simple is easy and easy is understood. In the early 19th century critics critiqued Gibran’s work for being simple, so of-course they will love this not so simple experimental movie. But did our younger audiences benefit from it? Did the movie have a mass appeal? Did all those in troubled relationships gain any wisdom?

All in all, the animations, mischievous Almitra, the scholar Mustafa, the fictional Mediterranean Village, the opinionated authority figures and the eager villagers leave much to be desired. The film reflects the passion of all who participated in but fails to portray the passion, the intent or the message of the auhor..Kahlil Gibran.


About the Author

Manisha

Manisha is Orchestrated over 200 commercial sand infomercials from pre-production to post-production for popular National Television Stations such as Sony TV, SAB, UTV, Discovery, Animal Planet, Discovery Turbo and Science. Her Documentary’s: Zambia Diaries, Born To Play.
As a Producer Bollywood Film – Aryan – Hindi, Short Film – Aur Achanak -Hindi