Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Kite Runner

Saw The Kite Runner over the holiday weekend. Haunting. Marc Forster's direction is subdued, and unobtrusive, a welcome change from exploding fireballs. Better than Khaled Hosseini's book, which seemed a little paint-by-numbers contrived and plot-driven. Same story, different touch. Screenwriter David Benioff puts his dialog in Dari (Persian dialect), with English subtitles, may have made the difference. Felt more realistic, even though highly stylized. In a way, a film about the immigrant experience in America, reflecting complcated relations with one's identity and past. The final caper, to rescue an Afghan orphan, had a dreamlike quality--did it happen, or was it a wish motivated by guilt? The ambiguity strengthened the impact of the picture.

The Kite Runner is about guilt, redemption and second chances. The scenes of life in Afghanistan reminded me of Uzbekistan. From the credits, it seems that it was filmed in Xinjiang Province of China--aka Chinese Turkestan, pretty close. Scenes in the San Francisco Bay area reminded me of college in Berkeley. It's not easy to watch, a little slow at times, yet powerful. The cast, including Khalid Abdalla, Atossa Leoni, and Shaun Toub are all excellent.

Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada, the child actor playing Hassan, Amir's Hazara servant, is best of all. His amazing performance carries the film's message on his face:

Hassan is Afghanistan.