The Kite Runner: Thumbs up, a thousand times over

On Thursday night we attended a packed private screening of “The Kite Runner” at the Regal Eagan 16 in suburban Minneapolis courtesy of Paramount and Grace Hill Media. We held the last Power Line Night at the Movies at the same venue a few years ago for “Serenity,” a film that the viewing public somehow knew to stay away from in droves. “The Kite Runner” opens in mid-December and the screenings give the audience plenty of time to get out positive or negative word of mouth on the film. Paramount must think enough of the film to take its chances.
I have not read the novel on which the film is based and reacted to the film solely on its own terms. I was impressed by the film on a number of grounds. It is a film for adults, addressing a serious subject with a dramatic and engaging story. The film is rated PG-13, but it is not aimed at a dumbed-down teen-age audience. I found it a powerful look at pre-liberation Afghanistan and a moving portrait of the protagonists’ emigration from Afghanistan to America.
The film also ingeniously manages the balance between the characters’ speaking in their native language at the opening of the film with a transition to English through most of the rest of the film. It is an aspect of the film that, along with its lack of a recognizable star, gives it an air of authenticity.
The moral center of the film appears to be the father of one of the two boys whose friendship gives rise to the story. His condemnation of theft as the law from which all others are derived is therefore ironic in light of the secret at the heart of the story revealed toward the end of the film. His son attempts to redeem both his own and his father’s failings.
The one character who is not so flawed is the son’s friend Hassan, who embodies the meaning of true friendship, and his example remains in my mind. The film’s portrayal of the father in Afghanistan and as a man of reduced stature sacrificing for his son in the United States also remains stamped in my mind.
It seems to me that the film captures some of the complexity and irresolution of real life in a satisfying and thought-provoking way. I would add only that I was intrigued by the film’s mix of graphic realism, symbolic imagery, and myth. These somewhat discordant elements are imperfectly brought together, but they add to the film’s power.
The novel on which the film is based seems to have been loved by everyone who has read it. My wife is one of them, and she loved the film as well. She found the film’s portrait of radical Islam in action (I won’t soon forget “the beard patrol”) especially worthy. She wants pretty much everyone to see the film to see what the Taliban were and are all about. We sat with Mrs. Rocket, who was also moved by the film.
I stuck around in the lobby afterward to debrief the Power Line readers in attendance. With one exception (an opthamologist who was repelled by the chaaracters’ flaws and the mythic slingshot about which I can’t say more without spoiling the plot), they were profoundly moved by the film. “A thousand times over” is the verbal token of deep friendship expressed in the film which I have borrowed to amplify the “thumbs up” rating of our Power Line readers in attendance.
UPDATE: A history graduate student in the MIddle East doctoral program at the University of Texas-Austin writes:

I recommend the book also (has anyone not?), and hopefully it was not spoiled for you by the movie. It is one of the most eloquent and touching works on Afghanistan (my historical and anthropological interest, especially on Pashtuns and Hazaras). Indeed, it is recommended reading in some classes on Afghan history. I also recommend you read A Thousand Splendid Suns as atonement for not reading The Kite Runner before seeing the movie! The second book by Khalid Hosseini deals with women in Afghanistan, especially under the Taliban.

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