The best films, at least for me, are those that greet you gently without getting your hopes up too high, but kick you by delightful surprise somewhere in the middle, carefully making sure of the promise that there wouldn’t be an ending without you being swept off your feet, awestruck by its unpredictable delivery.
Kite Runner, a film about a friendship set in Afghanistan circa the 70’s, is definitely one of those brilliant movies that meekly but stealthily deliver a memorable cinematic experience you’re not even expecting from its opening credits. (Honestly, the first time I tried to watch it, I was put off by the overwhelmingly Afghan opening credits, and as jaded as I am, I thought this is just another war film cloaked in a cutesy title. Thank Heavens, I gave it a second chance and boy was I glad to be proven wrong.) Big thanks to my best friend Cherry for recommending this one. :p
Based on the debut novel of Khaled Hosseini in 2003, the movie starred two young kids (played by Afghan child actors): Amir, a boy from a wealthy Pashtun household who lived constantly under the pressure of his father, and Hassan, his friend, who is the son of Amir’s family’s servant, a Hazara Family. Obviously, the friendship of these two is bound to be conflicted by their statuses in society, as how in most Asian Countries do. But what really set the edge for their drifting apart was actually caused by something else: their differences in inner personalities and traits. Some of the most interesting things about their layered characters are also their strengths and weaknesses: Amir is an intellectual, while Hassan is more physically skilled. I commend its consistency with their status in society; See, since Amir was brought up with better education, he grew up fond of writing stories and reading them to Hassan, who loved it a lot. And Hassan, a servant, was more adept in kite-flying, a tradition of some sorts in their town on which all the kids compete for recognition. In my opinion, the compliment and clash of their identities are perfectly tuned. Also, while we may expect that Amir, as the wealthy kid, should be the confident one, it is actually Hassan who possesses the bravery and the guts whenever the two of them find themselves cornered by bullies around town. Although Amir is clearly the main protagonist of this story, his character have been so flawed that it came out very refreshing. The movie has no qualms about depicting the imperfections of the supposed hero to illustrate how much his inner battles have led him to so much loss all through his life.
Hassan, in my opinion, is hands-down the show-stealer of this movie, and perhaps the saving grace of what might seem to be an ordinary tale about friendship gone wrong. There was a particular scene, a controversial one, which literally made me pause the movie for awhile because of shock. For those who haven’t seen it yet, I just have to say, it really is something that showed how much Hassan loved Amir to an unbelievable extent.
But what made me bawl my eyes out would have to be this scene following that shocking one, where Amir confronts Hassan in their usual hang-out place, and he finds him practicing how to read a book. If you have never seen it from the beginning, you probably wouldn’t understand its intensity, but the silent metaphors in this rendition just broke my heart, and I remembered having to stop the film again because I just need to tear up a little. It makes you look back to all the friends you’ve cared so much about and how bad it hurts to not be able to express in words just how much they mean to you. It’s that good.
To be fair though, the movie is not perfect, just like everything else. I think the big twist at the end has gone a little bit overboard, and it is partially biased in the rosy portrayal of the United States as a refuge in contrast to the rotten depiction of the Afghan Government. Movie was awesome on the kids’ part but yeah, when they grew up things got a little shaky. Then again, I found the sequence of events believable, still. You have to commend a film that makes you compromise, yeah? It’s because of its brilliant metaphors and big heart, that the film is very much a winner. Here are some of my favorite dialogues from the actors:
H: What’s the story about?
A: It’s about a man who finds a magic cup. And he learns that if he weeps in the cup, his tears turn to pearls. He’s very poor you know? And, at the end of the story, he’s sitting on a mountain of pearls with a bloody knife in his hand and his dead wife in his arms.
H: So he killed her?
A: Yes, Hassan.
H: So that he’d cry and get rich?
A: Yes, you’re very quick.
H: Are you done with your breakfast, Amir Agha?
H: Well, will you permit me to ask a question about the story?
A: Of course.
H: Why did the man have to kill his wife?
A: Because each of his tears becomes a pearl.
H: Yes, but why couldn’t he just smell an onion?
I guess more than anything else, the most significant thing that the movie did for me was that it gave me an enlightened perspective of how’s it like when Afghanistan was not the Afghanistan that the world knows now. It’s a sad story really, because you won’t just be watching a story of an estranged friendship, it would also tell the tale of how a country, an entire culture, went to ruins because of the changing times and how horrible wars really are for the innocents.
What’s lovely about this film though is the vivid tones of hope it chose to conclude with: bittersweet but still with so much heart. Kite Runner, for all these reasons, would linger in your mind for so much longer than you want it to be, simply because it’s that superb. Like I said up there, it’s soaring-high.