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April 12, 2016

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet

by Franz Patrick


Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (2014)
★★★ / ★★★★

Based on the book “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran, the film is an ambitious work not only because each segment—every one having a specific theme—is directed by a different individual but also because it is an animated film in which the target audience is adults. It is for mature audiences who are spiritual—not necessarily religious—and those who enjoy pondering over and having a relationship with what life has to offer.

I am convinced that the film is best consumed one segment at a time, preferably if one has chores and the viewer must pause the film every fifteen minutes or so. This allows Gibran’s words—since the poetry in each segment is taken directly from the book—to sink into our minds while we consider what he means by a phrase, rhyming scheme, and symbolism. This is not to suggest that the poetry is cryptic in any way. On the contrary, it is very accessible but one that, if one were to listen to the words carefully and how they are expressed, offers multiple meanings.

The hand-drawn animation is beautiful, particularly how the style adapts to each segment. For example, when a piece is about our relationship with the earth, hues of green and brown are dominant. There is a very grainy or sandy texture to the images. They tend to move into one another like water. On the other hand, when a piece is about how love should be shared between two people, we observe a dance and the poetic words dictate how the couple move and look into each other’s eyes. It is clear that a lot of thought and effort is put into each piece because each one has something memorable to offer.

Tying all of the segments together involves a poet named Mustafa (voiced by Liam Neeson) being informed that he is free after seven years of confinement in the mountains. But before he is given the news, he meets a little girl named Almitra (Quvenzhané Wallis) who has not spoken word since the death of her father. Mustafa and Almitra get along so well that we feel almost immediately that they are a part of the same spirit.

Although the template certainly has its peaks, there are times when the pacing lags, particularly Mustafa’s interactions with the common folk who have been touched by his work. One of these scenes is enough, but we get two or three of them. As a result, the man becomes idealized rather than remaining human, one who is flawed despite how people perceive him. The film might have been stronger if Mustafa had a bit of dimension to him divorced from his poetry and how people viewed him.

It is without a doubt that “The Prophet” is worth seeing… and again after some time. The words, music, and images complement each other so effortlessly that there are moments I forgot that I was seeing a film through the medium of animation. I was invested in its story and I wanted to dissect Gibran’s every line purely as they are as well as its relationship with the material’s pictures, sounds, and emotions.

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