Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
by Christie Robb
Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran’s 1923 classic volume The Prophet has been turned into a tranquil animated feature by writer/director Roger Allers (The Lion King) and producer Salma Hayek. Suggested viewing for those who require a respite from the routine and petty frustrations of life.
The movie frames Gibran’s poems with the story of a little girl, Almitra (Quvenzhane Wallis), mute since the death of her father. Her mother (Salma Hayek) works as a housekeeper for the imprisoned artist/poet Mustafa (Liam Neeson) and takes her to work one day.
It happens to be the day that Mustafa is released from his confinement and promised safe passage to a ship that will take him back to his homeland. But all is not what it seems. Almitra discovers that authorities have ulterior plans for Mustafa and his supposedly treasonous writing.
As Mustafa is marched from the house where he has been confined for seven years, his jailors (Alfred Molina and John Krasinski) allow him the occasional break to visit with the community he loves. Each communion becomes the occasion for a poem meditating on a theme: freedom, children, marriage, work, nature, love, compassion, the nature of good and evil, life and death.
Each of these meditations is illustrated by a different animator: Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells), Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues), Bill Plympton (Guide Dog), and others. In their work you can see the echoes of Escher, Indian shadow puppetry, van Gogh, Klimt, Matisse, and Chagall.
Although the frame story of Mustafa and Almitra is a bit weak, the poems—featuring music from Glen Hansard (Once), Damien Rice, and Yo-Yo Ma; and the buttery, lilting voice of Neeson—make the majority of the film a serene delight for the eyes, ears, mind, and heart.