Monday, March 31, 2008

The Kite Runner

Film adaptations never come close to recreating the feel or impact of the book they are based on. While this is true even of fantasy novels(Harry Potter) and fiction(Absolute Power), the difference is really apparent when the novel is a character-based narrative that thrives on emotions. That is what happens in the case of The Kite Runner, based on Khaled Hosseini's novel of the same name. It is a solid, perfectly acceptable adaptation of the novel that feels like it couldn't have been done any better but it still lacks the emotional impact and intensity of the book.

As I mentioned when I wrote about the book, "the story provides the opportunity for the characters to run through a gamut of emotions and Hosseini's talent lies in describing these emotions with great clarity". That lucid description of complex emotions is the strength of the novel and that is precisely the aspect that gets lost in the translation to film. Whether its Amir's guilt, his happiness at getting an opportunity for redemption or his father's pride, the effect of the characters' facial expressions and body language that are used to convey them just cannot match the power of the written word. It doesn't help that some sequences(including my favorite one, when Amir visits his driver's home and meets his children on his return trip to Afghanistan) that were admittedly outside the main track but still powerfully emotional, are omitted.

Though Hosseini's marvelously descriptive writing helped evoke images of what he was writing about, seeing it on the screen does make it more realistic. Well-nuanced performances and the realistic setting draw us into the lives of the characters. And having read the book turns out to be an advantage since many of the otherwise-ordinary lines("For you, a thousand times over") seem even more resonant. The movie works best after Amir's return to Afghanistan. The way the country has been transformed is tragic and the gloomy setting makes many scenes(like the ones in the orphanage and the stadium) rather unsettling. And the sense of dread when Amir meets Assef and the sense of urgency when he goes on the run feel very real.


At 11:53 PM, Blogger Bart said...

Read the book very late after its release sometime last year. Enjoyed it very much. Felt it had a wonderful potential to be made into a movie.
Now that the movie has come out and you've given positive feedback, it would be an easier way to revisit the book :)

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Shobha said...

Hi, my first time here. You make a valid point in your first paragraph.

One movie popped up in my head as I read your post.

Have you watched 'The English Patient'?

I felt the movie did complete justice to Michael Ondaatje's novel.

What are your thoughts?

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

I've had the book for a while and haven't had the chance to read it yet... I did like the movie though... Perhaps had I watched the movie AFTER I read the book I would have been complaining I suppose.

Have you watched/read The NAMESAKE? I thought that movie was crap compared to the reading the book. Oh well, you win some you lose some :)

At 1:06 PM, Blogger mitr_bayarea said...


I throughly enjoyed the book, didn't want to watch the movie for reasons known. But, after reading your blog, this will be our next netflix order.

At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read the book and watched the movie in theatre, when it was released in December. Although I thought the movie was a good adaptation of the book, it pales in comparison with the written version. Completely agree with you on that!

At 10:18 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

bart, yes its worth a watch but seeing it as a way of revisiting the book will probably make u like it less :)

s, thanx for visiting. unfortunately, i have neither seen 'english patient' nor read the novel. but i have heard other reviews say that it was a very good adaptation :)

merino, not sure if u'll be complaining. maybe a li'l disappointed :)

i liked movie 'the namesake' a lot. but haven't read the book :)

mitr, the movie does make u remember certain things from the book and its almost worth watching it just for that :)

a-kay, "a good adaptation of the book, it pales in comparison with the written version" - completely agree with u on that :)

At 5:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't watched the movie The Namesake but read the book today. I was completely bored with all the tiny details and till the end kept wondering when will the story begin. By the end of it, with the number of relationships that Gogol goes through and also Moushami, I thanked God so much that I was born and brought up in a conservative family in India. If this is what it means to live in an open society, then it's not worth it.

Of course, the character of Ashima touched me a lot cause I could relate to the pain of loneliness as well as the communication gap with the son after bringing him up with so much love. Are Gogol/Moushami examples of what we should expect of Indian children raised in the US? Scary!!!


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