August 5, 2015

Random Acts… ‘The Prophet’ offers food for the soul

Posted in Entertainment, Movies at 5:49 am by dinaheng

In a terror-filled world, the words of Kahlil Gibran are a balm to the soul.

The poetry of Gibran, a Lebanese philosopher and artist, is most often recognized in the classic book, “The Prophet,” published in 1923. Filled with thoughts on the meaning of love, work, freedom, prayer, death and more, the book – published in 40 languages — speaks to the heart of everyone, regardless of race or religion.

Now, Gibran’s words can be heard in an animated feature, produced and spearheaded by Salma Hayek, titled “The Prophet.” The film, in theaters on Friday (August 7), was written and directed by Roger Allers, whose credits include “The Lion King,” “Oliver and Company,” “”Beauty and the Beast,” and other Disney animated films.Dinah Eng

“The Prophet” is as far from a Disney production as you can get. The film combines Gibran’s poetry with animation and music, performed by Yo-Yo Ma, Damien Rice and Glen Hansard. While many scenes are beautifully rendered, the narrative itself is thin.

The poet Mustafa, voiced by Liam Neeson, is ready to leave a Mediterranean country for home, but is threatened by authorities who fear the truth in what he writes. The exiled artist is aided by Almitra (Quvenzhané Wallis), a troubled little girl who stopped speaking after her father’s death, her mother Kamila (Salma Hayek), Mustafa’s housekeeper, and other villagers who are inspired by the prophet’s words and drawings.

“I read ‘The Prophet’ in college, and it was very meaningful to me, so I jumped at the chance to work on this film,” Allers says. “There isn’t much of a narrative to the book, so I came up with the idea of his being under house arrest, and tried to have the poems flow out of his journey from the house to the ship.”

Allers remembers reading the book aloud with a college friend, and suddenly experiencing an intense feeling of connectedness to everything around him. He calls it a meditation that resulted in an out-of-body-like experience.

"Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet." Photo courtesy of GKIDS.

“Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.” Photo courtesy of GKIDS.

“Poetry shifts us to a different part of the brain,” Allers says. “Maybe it’s part of the musicality of it, as opposed to listening to people just talk. Poetry helps us to let go of our usual perceptions.”

Through the film, Gibran’s words have the power to take your mind to another place, a world where wisdom reigns.

About children, the poet writes, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you, but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

About work, Gibran notes, “Work is love made visible.”

About death, Gibran shares, “”For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?”

This film may not be the most intriguing showcase for Gibran’s words, but any movie that explores the meaning of life with this poet’s inspiring message of unity and peace deserves our applause.