The Kite Runner directed by Marc Forster, written by David Benioff from Khaled Hosseini’s novel, with Khalid Abdalla, Atossa Leoni, Zekeria Ebrahimi and Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada. A Paramount Vantage release. 122 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (December 14). Rating: NN
I’m worried. Marc Forster, the humourless auteur behind Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland, is directing the next James Bond movie.
Let’s hope he’s got a great second unit director. Forster’s got no action experience, a singularly dour world view and a weak feel for genre structure – traits that do not bode well for a Bond movie director.
I’m not sure these traits qualify him to direct The Kite Runner, the story of a Amir, young man who goes back to Afghanistan in the Taliban period to rescue the son of his childhood friend and servant Hassan.
Amir and Hassan are bound together by guilt: Amir witnessed the rape of Hassan and did nothing to intervene. (You may have read about the controversy that’s seen the young actors shipped out of country for their own safety.)
In essence, The Kite Runner double-tracks two narratives about the same character, separated by the gulf between adulthood and childhood. There is the childhood story of Amir and Hassan and the adult story of Amir after he and his father move to California as the Soviets invade Afghanistan.
This story demands that the audience suspend its disbelief through a series of climactic coincidences that are the literary equivalent of having God sit in your lap. I haven’t read the novel, so I don’t know if we should prosecute Forster, screenwriter David Benioff or novelist Khaled Hosseini for the film’s crimes against narrative sanity. But somebody ought to pay.
I’m tempted to blame Benioff, who wrote the gods out of Troy and has the sole screenplay credit on Forster’s incoherently structured “thriller,” Stay.
The tone is distinctively Forster, though. He directs as if his philosophy of life comes from Woody Allen’s “serious” movies like Interiors, which we know are serious because there is no humour whatsoever contained within them. And just how many laughs are in Forster’s Will Ferrell comedy, Stranger Than Fiction?
What makes life interesting – and dramatic – is that there is humour in the midst of tragedy and darkness in comedy. Drama gains from its impurities – even Macbeth and King Lear have jokes in them. Part of the brilliance of a movie like Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead comes from the way it teeters on the edge of black comedy throughout.
The direction and tone of The Kite Runner, in contrast, is competent and very, very serious. The largely amateur cast of young Afghans is impressively real. But, like Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland, which stacked Oscar nominations like cordwood, it’s a hard slog to get to the end.