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Measure for Measure

“The Kite Runner” Review: Book Versus Film #kiterunner

I read “The Kite Runner” in the summer. I had avoided it for years – having heard about the main incident and therefore not wanting to read it. But I had very much enjoyed “A Thousand Splendid Suns” also by Khaled Hosseini and thought I would give it a go.

Great book – but brutal, shocking and violent.

I have recently seen the movie. While it was good to see the settings as they should be, the richness of the novel was lost and the inner torment of the narrator, Amir, was gone.


So, the surprising omissions:

Hassan did not have a cleft lip and palate as he did in the novel. In the novel, he has this operated on which allows for the irony that Amir did not see him smile again until he saw him in a photograph twenty six years later. Because of this omission, Baba could not pay for the operation – and the birthday present in the movie was just the kite he bought him. This lessened the idea of the love that Baba had for Hassan that so perturbed Amir.

The beating of Amir at the climax of the novel was very tame in comparison with the novel. In the novel numerous bones are broken and he is hospitalized for a good deal of time afterwards. The severity of the beating allows him to experience a sense of healing as he feels that at last he is getting what he deserves for what he didn’t do for Hassan in his youth. In the movie he is able to run away and climb over a wall and just go home afterwards – whereas in the novel, Assef had told his friends to let Amir go if he survived and he hauled his badly beaten self out with difficulty.

The most surprising omission was Sohrab’s attempted suicide that comes as a twist in the novel. Everything is set for a happy ending and then carelessness of Amir sets off Sohrab’s attempt, which threatens to have Amir with not only Hassan’s blood on his hands, but also Sohrab’s. This extra crisis, just as the reader was anticipating a “happy” ending, is a real shock – and is therefore very effective.

So, in the movie, when Amir escapes from Assef largely unscathed and then they pretty much get on a plane to America, it lacks the emotional intensity of the novel, with Amir being beaten to within an inch of his life, with the chance that laws will prevent Sohrab leaving Pakistan at all, then with Sohrab being hospitalized and becoming mute.

However, the depictions, visually, of Afghanistan were enlightening and the contrast of the Afghanistan of an innocent childhood and the war-torn country he goes back to was striking, with the roads crumbling and the trees gone. The kite flying scenes were well done in both Afghanistan and America.

I very much appreciated the fact that the characters spoke in the languages they would have been speaking in.

It must be difficult to adapt such a novel for the screen. The result was that time seemed to fly past in the movie, skipping huge chunks of guilt and angst. I suppose that is unavoidable.

The part I don’t understand was why the violence was sanitized quite so much. Maybe it was planned that way in order to get a lower certificate to reach a wider audience, but – shocking as the violence was – it was nothing like the violence in the novel which was never gratuitous, but was graphic nevertheless.

In some ways I recommend “The Kite Runner” as a novel – but it contains really appalling incidents and violence. Despite this, Hosseini has created a novel that is very well crafted and cyclical with the events being metaphorical and justified within the story of the novel. I learned a lot about the relatively recent history of Afghanistan.

So, great book, but not for the squeamish.

As for the movie, a bit tame.


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One thought on ““The Kite Runner” Review: Book Versus Film #kiterunner

  1. Excellent review of both the book and the movie and I think that I will go for the book, I tend to prefer more nuanced over expediency. Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

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