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Review: “Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet”

Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet

Kahlil Gibran's The ProphetThe Prophet is a collection of prose poetry essays by Lebanese author Kahlil Gibran. Published in 1923, the book tells the tale of a prophet named Mustafa who has been living abroad in exile for stirring up radical ideas with his works and teachings. As he walks toward a ship to take him home, he is stopped along the way by various friends and sympathizers which gives him a chance to talk about various topics, providing the framework that houses Gibran’s essays on love, marriage, children, good and evil, work, freedom, religion, and more. The animated movie visually does the same by turning each of Gibran’s poems into a series of beautifully illustrated shorts, each done by a different team of top animators around the world, including Tomm Moore and Bill Plympton, all interwoven into the main story.

In the animated version of the story, a young rebellious girl named Almitra causes trouble in the little seaside town she lives in by just wandering through the village doing whatever she pleases. Adding to her “difficult” reputation is the fact that she hasn’t spoken a word since the death of her father. Almitra’s poor mother, Kamila, has no idea how to get through to her. Besides her mother, the only person who seems to want to even try to befriend Almitra is Mustafa, the exiled poet and artist whose house Kamila cleans for. Mustafa befriends Almitra just by talking to her. Their friendship is short-lived, since the government suddenly decides to let Mustafa return to his home country, and, like the book, Mustafa gets to expound on deep topics with the villagers whom he has made friends with over the years as he walks toward the ship that will take him home.

Kahlil Gibran's The ProphetEach short is unique in style and animation, mated to beautifully narration by Liam Neeson as Mustafa. Each short paints an abstract lively picture of each prose that contrasts the background story. Each essay also gives you the chance to really fall in love with Neeson’s deep, rich, and mesmerizing voice, which usually is not on display so prominently. Unfortunately, the shorts really steal the attention away from the rest of the movie. The running story line’s animation is a bit awkward and dull. It almost looks as if the characters were rendered in 3D CGI shapes and figures and then outlined to turn the animation into flat 2D characters, which makes for a strange combination effect that doesn’t look as natural as regular hand drawn 2D animation.

Even though it would take away from the original book’s storyline, The Prophet might have been better off as just a series of shorts without the underlining story, even if it would mean the final essay would lose its impact.  There’s also the disconnect with the writers trying to make the underlying story kid-friendly with the addition of Almitra even though Gibran’s essay subjects are more adult in nature.  Despite the wonderful shorts, the movie overall feels like an awkward marriage of 2 things that really don’t meld into one coherent piece.