Thursday, 26 April 2012

THE PROPHET - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Toronto's Hot Docs 2012 Must-See #10

The Prophet (2012) dir. Gary Tarn ***
Narration: Thandie Newton
Reviewed By Greg Klymkiw

How much one enjoys this cerebral adaptation of Kahlil Gibran's mega-selling book of prose poetry The Prophet might depend how disposed one is to Gibran's (for me) flaky touchy-feely philosophy.

My less-than-charitable feelings about Gibran, however, were muted considerably by Gary Tarn's evocative, poetic filmmaking. In what is a stroke of exquisite taste, he's enlisted the brilliant actress Thandie Newton (Besieged, Crash, The Pursuit of Happyness) to narrate Gibran's words. Her voice is infused with such mellifluous grace and passion, that one could almost close one's eyes for the entire running time of the picture and be utterly mesmerized by prose which, on the page, always seemed a bit too pretentiously thick for my literary needs.

Closing one's eyes, however, might not be the best advice since you'd miss out on Tarn's superb imagery (which he photographed all over the world). It's delicately and gorgeously edited and accompanied by an extremely appropriate score that Tarn also composed. Again, for me, the score feels borderline New-agey, but I have to also admit it works superbly within the context of both Thandie's humdinger of a voice and Tarn's photography.

Frankly, I much preferred Gibran's words within the context of the movie Tarn has rendered. The tale of a prophet about to go on a long journey (possibly to that big pulpit in the sky where all preachers and philosophers go) and his words of wisdom to a clutch of followers seems perfectly suited to the style of poetic docu-narrative Tarn has constructed.

Very similar to Godfrey Reggio's Qatsi trilogy (Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Naqoyqatsi), as well as Ron Fricke's (Reggio cinematographer) Baraka, Tarn's film uses music and image to convey Gibran's philosophies which, I grudgingly must admit, work perfectly within the context of contemporary events. That Gibran's words are delivered with such power by Thandie Newton sure doesn't hurt. In fact, I'd argue that Tarn doesn't actually stray from either Reggio and Fricke's non-verbal approach since Thandie gives Gibran's words a quality that's close to music itself.

On a sidenote, I watched the film with my 11-year-old daughter before she went to school in the morning. She was so transfixed that she couldn't stop talking about the movie and asking questions as I drove her to class. She also expressed interest in both seeing the movie again but only until after she could read Gibran's book of "The Prophet".

Tarn should have no problem appeasing the converted, but if the experience with my daughter is any indication, he might well have a great shot at influencing the yet-to-be-converted. As for curmudgeons like myself, I suspect I'd need to read the book again only at gunpoint, but I sure enjoyed watching Tarn's movie.

"The Prophet" is playing Sun, Apr 29 9:15 PM at the Isabel Bader Theatre and Tue, May 1 2:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 during Toronto's Hot Docs 2012 Film Festival. For tickets, visit the Hot Docs website HERE. The official website for "The Prophet" is HERE and Tarn's own website is HERE. I imagine many who see and like the movie will be into the music and there is a website for the soundtrack HERE.