Film Review: Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
Directed by Roger Allers
There are few things in life more glorious than the sound of Liam Neeson reading lines from the great poet Gibran’s The Prophet. In this animated film, the spiritual ruminations of Gibran’s 1923 work are given a kid-friendly through line and exquisite renderings by an international lineup of animators. In the central story, a young, mute girl named Almitra wreaks havoc around her town while her mother (voiced by producer Salma Hayek) deals with Mustafa (Neeson), an outspoken man who has run afoul of the authorities and has a lot of things to say about love, sacrifice, work, eating, you name it.
Mustafa and Almitra, however—both rebels in a sense—have a clear bond. And as the older prophet speaks to the young girl, each of his lessons—derived from the homily-like structure of Gibran’s book—comes to life in its own magical way. Among the guest animators here are the legendary Bill Plympton, whose playful colored-pencil drawings illustrate Gibran’s thoughts on eating and drinking; Nina Paley, who uses her elegant, collage-like designs to tackle the section on children; Oscar nominee Tomm Moore, who brings a smooth, elegant vitality to the Prophet’s ruminations on love; while the surreally swirling paintings of Joan Gratz animate the section on work. Almost by design, some of these individual parts work better than others. After all, Gibran didn’t write his poem with any thought to whether any of it might work as an animated film, and the central, original story is at times a little too indebted to easy bits of humor designed to appeal to younger, impatient viewers. But taken as a whole, this is a unique work, full of enchanting, trippy passages that occasionally achieve moments of transcendent beauty.