Fast-paced modernity acts like deceptive facade that tricks us into thinking we've become something very different from what we've always been. But below the multiple layers of unimportant burdens, pretended indifference, and overflowing cynicism, lies an unalterable human core that rejoices and suffers like it’s done since its genesis. A person navigating the turbulent waters of life today is indeed pondering on the same questions that another did centuries ago. Pain and pleasure, births and deaths, tears and laughter, passion and despair, they all continue to trap us all in their ambivalent choreography that forced us to question if there is meaning to the madness or if the absurdity of the human condition is just an indecipherable codex.
Enlightened thinkers have incessantly taken it upon themselves to interpret our common fears and urges to arrive at somewhat logical conclusions about our puzzling purpose and put these into comprehensible words. Academic and formal the philosopher appeals to rational mind, while the poet delicately arranges his thoughts and aims for the impetuous tenderness of our visceral side. Like preachers of a higher faith that exist about authoritarian religions, poets share their knowledge in ways unrestricted by physicality. Their words travel in the wind and pierce hearts with darts made out of profound realizations. Such sacred gift was granted by the universe to Kahlil Gibran
, the Lebanese-American poem who would pen The Prophet
, one of the most spiritual books ever written unbound by any denomination.
Containing ethereal poems delving into specific facets of our mortal condition, Gibran’s volumes are not quintessential material for a film adaptation. His writing seemed elusive to traditional representations limited by a rigid narrative structure. Conscious of this seemingly obstructive aspect, determined producer Salma Hayek
recognized that a much more fluid and unrestrictive medium was required to portray Gibran’s teachings not with literal imagery, but with dreamlike works of moving art that could evoke the essence of each verse. Ambitiously, Hayek
set out to expand the accessibility of this book, one that her grandfather of Lebanese origin treasured deeply and which she had grown to appreciate herself, thought an animation project of tremendous magnitude.
Aspiring to effectively turn this lifelong wish into a soulful visual feast, Hayek
enlisted nine of the world’s most passionate animators to fabricate magic with color and to take part in an exuberant celebration of creativity. Eight of them would craft individual segments interpreting a specific poem without any parameter other than Gibran’s intricate phrases, while another director was charged with the demanding task of wrapping these delightful fragments in a frame narrative that could cohesively unify them. The product of this phenomenal amalgamation is Roger Allers
’ “Kahlil Gibran
’s The Prophet
,” a cinematic out-of-body experience that deconstructs our existential yearnings and translates them into mesmerizing animated wisdom.
Honed during the Disney Renaissance, Allers’ stylistic principles still carry a familiar aesthetic that resembles iconic films from said period. Although better known for directing one the most beloved animated tales of all time, “The Lion King
,” his resourceful hand touched several other projects including “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast
,” as both a writer and a storyboard artist. That myriad of storytelling abilities is reflected in his approach to this unorthodox venture. While the character design employed in his enveloping storyline will immediately and instinctively remind viewers of the filmmaker’s Disney origins, he manages to tailor he manages to tailor such distinct appearance for this singular undertaking. It’s classically elegant and precisely suitable for the plot-driven portion of the film.
Centered on Mustafa (Liam Neeson
), a poet and painter living as a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire for what they considered subversive ideas, Allers’ screenplay channels Gibran’s thin fictional account and develops it further so that it blossoms into a full-length fable that relays its own moral, while serving as vehicle for the abstract enclaves to be presented seamlessly. Besides spearheading the entire operation, in this section of the film Hayek
also voices Kamila, a hardworking widow paid by the regime to tend to Mustafa and who is out of option when it comes to dealing with her rebellious, yet silent, young daughter, Almitra (Quvenzhané Wallis
). It’s only when the girl meets the unassuming wise man that her quiet frustration begins to dissipate.A receptive vessel, Almitra is fascinated by Mustafa’ss tranquil demeanor and fascination by his convictions even if she can’t fully grasp their significance.
Neeson’s virile tone gives the protagonist a regal air without sounding intimidating. His voice emanates tranquility coated with strength, like a fatherly figure at peace with his every step. Alfred Molina
appears as the comically villainous Sergeant in charge of escorting Mustafa through the village, but who often gives in to his human impulses on their way to the harbor. Meanwhile John Krasinski
plays Halim, a young official romantically pursuing Kamila, and veteran thespian Frank Langella
is heard briefly as Pasha, the evil ruler who holds the poet’s fate in his hands. As the events that lead to Mustafa’s final trial unfold each of the stylistically eclectic short sequences finds the right moment to be unveiled.
First comes Michal Socha
’s “On Freedom,“ in which an anthropomorphic birdcage prevents its feathered captives from flying into the sunset. Ridding themselves of their shackles holds the promise of fulfillment, but that desire is in fact “the strongest of these chains.” Clever in its use of symbolism and graceful in its execution, Socha’s rendition of Gibran’s piece is sharp and poignant. Then, with kaleidoscopic vividness, Nina Paley
uses multiple motifs evocative of both Indian and Greek iconography in “On Children,” to depict the cyclical nature of life and the perennial bond between parents and their descendants. Though this connection is irreproachable, progenitors shouldn't attempt to command the life they’ve brought into the world because it’s not their possession, but a link in a greater continuum. Like bows launching arrows into an uncertain abyss, mothers and fathers must come to terms with letting go. Singer/songwriter Damien Rice
rearranges the author’s lines into heartfelt lyrics for a melancholic song that builds up to a captivating finale.
Seductively, Joann Sfar
's “On Marriage” shows two lovers dancing tango under the moonlight. Ancient ruins become the battleground for a sensual clash where impeccable choreography is a more of a strategic maneuver than just coordinated movement. Subtly wrestling each other to set the boundaries of their union, husband and wife know their paths advance parallel, yet independently. Similarly exquisite is the manner in which Academy Award-winner Joan Gratz
delivers “On Work,” via a painstaking technique known as claypainting. Blending colors with inconspicuous ability, the seasoned artist travels through the numerous notions on the worthiness of labor, whether physical or creative. Exceptionally delicate in nature, her work thoroughly explains why “he who seizes the rainbow to lay it on a cloth” is not nobler than “he who makes sandals for our feet.”Bill Plympton
's scratchy and utterly handcrafted frames in "On Eating and Drinking" flow with the uncompromising animator's expected candidness.These elemental joys are held sacred by Gibran as “an act of worship,” and while the cartoonist is respectful of this canon, humor is always a vital quality of his deliberately nonchalant drawings. A man bites an apple and as we follow its journey through the human body we witness nourishment and sustainability by means of Plympton's style. Now, the most unquestionably breathtaking piece of this magnificent puzzle, and perhaps the most beautiful piece of filmmaking to be projected on screens this year, is Tomm Moore
’s “On Love.” Its alluring rhythm and detailed Art Nouveau
designs flood each frame with spellbinding imagery that speaks of the thorny splendor that falling for another being entails. Elating and devastating at once, “love crowns you” with its intoxicating glory, but just as strongly it can “crucify you” with merciless fury. Moore’s unmistakable enchantment illustrates an ancestral couple ascending from the depths of darkness into the light of redemption propelled by the dazzlingly magic of “love’s ecstasy.”
Silhouetted animals racing for survival personify human ambitions in Mohammed Harib's “On Good and Evil.” Given the broadness of the poem’s subject matter the animator could have taken much more literal routes to relay its lesson, but his metaphorical approach successfully encapsulates Gibran’s stance on benevolence and wickedness. In hi eyes any wrong doings perpetrated have a purpose within the landscape of our collective destiny. All that is evil was once kindness, because, according to the poet, “good tortured by its own hunger and thirst.” Finally, our unavoidable fate is treated with compassion rather than morbid tropes by Gaëtan Brizzi
and Paul Brizzi
in their transcendent visualization of "On Death." Our soul, comes to life in the form of an incorporeal character who dances swiftly celestial radiance. Sorrow is replaced with the hope that the end is just a transition into an “unencumbered” state. Drinking from the “river of silence” allows our inner divinity to truly sing without restrains. A peaceful rebirth only comes from letting go of carnal necessities, and that’s something both Gibran and Mustafa are convince of.
Musically, “Kahlil Gibran
’s The Prophet
,” was embellished by composer Gabriel Yared
’s grand score, which mixes epic sentiments with soothing melodies decorating almost every second of it. Accentuating Tomm Moore
’s lovely bit, Irish singers Lisa Hannigan
and Oscar-winner Glen Hansard
fashion a stirring tune out the scribe’s contemplation on amorous frenzy. Lastly, in addition to providing a song for Paley’s segment, Damien Rice
wrote another moving ballad titled “Hypnosis” to play during the final credits. Perfectly reflective of the experiential attributes of the film it caps, Rice’s stanzas put an empowering final touch as it asks us to seek strength from our personal truth.
In this tapestry of lyrical mirages, the eternal endurance of art prevails as testament of the immortality bestowed only on those whose brilliance surpasses time and space. Harnessing wide-ranging techniques, the artists behind “Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet
” gifted us one of the most mesmerizing films of the year and a milestone in the history of animation, which brought together the genius of many to spread words of compassion and serenity. Solidarity amongst mankind and the acceptance of our flaws as virtues hidden by unnecessary vanity and greed, are the first steps towards the reconciliation between what we think we are now and what we've always been. Gibran’s message is as relevant as ever today, so let us fill ourselves with the majesty of his wisdom, and become vindicated disciples willing to live beyond merely existing.
"Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet
" is now playing in L.A. and NYC and will open in other cities across the country in the upcoming weeks.