The Kite Runner: Book Into Film

The Book

Kite runner

I read The Kite Runner last summer, and it has remained one of my favorite books. It might as well be called Atonement, because that’s exactly what it’s about.  But this time, the character, Amir, has to deal with the sin of omission.  Just the same, failure to act can lead to devastating consequences, and Amir, just like Briony in Ian McEwan’s Atonement, has to live with his guilt throughout his life.  Unlike Briony, Amir has a chance to redeem himself.   As Amir’s mentor Rahim Khan says: ‘There’s a way to be good again’, despite the tragedies that have already taken place.
Highly acclaimed as the first Afghan novel written in English, The Kite Runner became an international bestseller, publishing in 40 countries.  Author Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, son of a diplomat. His family sought and received political asylum in the United States as the Soviet invaded Afghanistan, settling in California in 1980 when he was 15.  Hosseini later studied medicine and became an internist practicing until 2004, when he began to devote his time fully to writing.
The book is neatly divided into three sections, the first narrates the childhood of the socially privileged Amir growing up in Kabul.  His best friend is Hassan, the son of their servant Ali.  The two boys grow up together, freely roaming the streets of Kabul almost as brothers.  Hassan is totally dedicated to Amir.  He has been Amir’s kite runner, retrieving downed rival kites, and defended him from bullies.  During one horrific incident, Amir betrays Hassan.  Deeply troubled by guilt, Amir devises a plan to ultimately rid himself of the source of his torments, indirectly driving Ali and Hassan out of their household.
Upon the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Amir flees to America with his father.  The second part of the book chronicles Amir as an adult, his once fragile relationship with his father is forged stronger as the two strive for their new life in a distant land.  Before his father’s death from illness, Amir gets married and realizes his dream as a writer.  The third part of the book depicts Amir’s journey back to the now Taliban controlled Afghanistan to fulfill a mission that would ultimately lead to his personal redemption.
I was moved as I read the author’s poignant first-person narratives.  This is the power of words in the hand of a sensitive and talented writer, articulating the deepest feelings otherwise hidden beyond reach.  I enjoyed the first part the most.  Through vivid description and deceptively simple language Hosseini depicts poignantly the friendship of Amir and Hassan, the loyalty of Hassan and the betrayal by Amir, and ultimately the separation of the two childhood friends.
The political upheavals are used as a backdrop, adding texture to the story.  The book is not about the Soviets or the Taliban.  It’s about a father-son relationship, family, friendship, love, and loss.  Above all, it chronicles the life-long haunting consequences of one’s action or inaction, the atonement of wrong done, and the necessary journey in search of redemption.
And for the kite soaring high in the sky, it may well be a metaphor for freedom and victory, not just politically, but internally, being set free from burden, from guilt.  Despite a relatively weaker second section, overall The Kite Runner is beautifully written, an engrossing and satisfying read.

~ ~ ~ Ripples

The Movie

The Kite Runner Movie

Update Jan. 22:  The Kite Runner has just been nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Score.

First off, I must state that I’m evaluating the film according to its own genre, as a film.  And to be fair, the movie follows the story quite closely, almost dividing the script into three sections like the book, and telling the story adequately.  Ironically, such direct transfer does not fare well with the film medium.  The transition of scenes are sometimes quite abrupt and choppy.  The same dialogues are there, but the mood is missing. The eagerness of storytelling seems to have overshadowed the artistry of movie making. As a result, the film lacks the power to engage.

I must say though, there are merits that I should acknowledge.  Kudos to Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada for portraying young Hassan so movingly.  He’s probably the most affable and natural actor in the whole movie.  His presence is the appeal of the film, and he well deserves the Critics Choice Award nomination for Best Young Actor.  Unfortunately his role only appears in the first part.

Transferring the story to screen, director Marc Forster (Stranger Than Fiction, 2006) has taken advantage of the visual element, bringing to life the excitement of the sport of kite combat.  To North American audiences, such scenes may well be a spectacular eye-opener.  The original score by Alberto Iglesias (Volver, 2006, Constant Gardener, 2005) plays an essential part in the movie, imparting the intended effects where other film elements may be lacking. His composition earns him a nod from the Golden Globes for a Best Original Score nomination.

The movie attempts to present the cultural sights and sounds of Afghan life, albeit on a very small scale. My main disappointment though was to find out, as the end credits rolled, that the Afghan scenes were all shot in Xinjiang and Beijing, China.  Was I too naive to think that a movie about Afghanistan should be shot in Afghanistan?

As I was watching the movie I felt something was missing, but couldn’t pinpoint what.  I felt the acting by the main character, the adult Amir, played by Khalid Abdalla (United 93, 2006) and his wife Soraya (Atossa Leoni), to be distant and detached.  Maybe due to their lack of acting experience, their performance seem to be less intense and expressive than what the story demands.

Now that I’ve given it some thoughts, I think the lack of the intimacy which the book so successfully delivers can be compensated on screen by a narrative voice-over.  The personal narrative of the book is what makes the story poignant and moving.  The film could benefit from a first person narrative to draw viewers closer and to convey more effectively the hidden turmoils that can’t be expressed cinematically, or technically.  A well written narrative voice-over could impact the audience in a more haunting way as the book has achieved.

Overall, the movie is an adequate adaptation of the book, but it only offers a glimpse of what the book entails. As a nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Golden Globes this year, hopefully, it can draw viewers’ interest to dig deeper into the profound story by reading the source material first hand.

~ ~ 1/2 Ripples

Published by


If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

22 thoughts on “The Kite Runner: Book Into Film”

  1. Very good appraisal of the book and the movie. I also felt the movie was rather flat and dispassionate. It’s too bad, because I also feel it was a valiant effort.


  2. Susan: Thanks for your comment. I’d like to hear from you again after you’ve seen the movie…just curious to know what other readers of the book think about the film adaptation.


  3. I agree with you on the differences between the book and the film. Isn’t it true, most of the time, that a film “only offers a glimpse of what the book entails,” especially when it is so much about a character’s personal development?


  4. Ivan: I’m glad you found my review helpful.

    Considering how strict academic evaluations are, I suggest you follow closely the writing guidelines of your course, and, to protect yourself, cite your sources.

    Feel free to stop by again to browse my other posts, for work or for pleasure!


  5. I totally agree with you, the book was so much touching, but the movie lack so of emotion and feelings. The movie felt so uncompleted.


  6. do you think i should watch the movie if i am not done reading the book yet…because i have an assignment due soon… and i need to know what happens.


  7. rohini: The movie follows the major storyline of the book, you can certainly find out what happens. But, just by watching the movie, you won’t know the inner world of the characters…as I’ve said in my movie review, I think the acting lacks the depth of expressions to translate the inner turmoil of the characters. The last part of the book should definitely be read.


  8. Other than just the basic acting skills and the common loss of depth from a book into a film. Were there any big main differences that were in the book that werent in the movie?
    for example: when Amir wanted Hassan to throw the pomegranet at him…was it a different type of fruit or was it played out differently? Anything like that?

    You know Lauren, it’s been 11 months since I watched the movie. For details like that it’s best that you watch the DVD with the book open to find out exactly what you’re looking for. Thanks for stopping by!



  9. My english is not that good, anyways, i am an afghan and belong to hassan’s trib. When i watched the movie i was very disappointed, emotion was missing in the film.

    Hi Rauf, thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment!



  10. Hi,
    I think there is someting that change in the movie,
    the scene when Ali and Hassan leaving. In the book, Baba was offering them to drive savely, but it doesnt mention in the movie. Am i right??

    Im going to have a project about this movie sooner, but im having troubles finding how the relationship between Amir and Hassan produced in movie compare with the book?!


  11. Just finished reading the book,
    I’m actually writing a review of it as a school assignment right now, and that’s what led me to this blog, (by the way, I’m using the picture of the book’s cover).
    I sadly saw the movie before I read the book, but even so, I still found that the movie fell short of the book. But, you must consider how many small, yet significant events happen in the book. The movie was quite long and if it included all the events, we, who read it, would have loved it, but it wouldn’t have been a smart move from the producers. I just say Alhamdulillah (Thank God) I got to read the book. InshaAllah (By the will of God), I’ll post up my review once it’s revised and finally done.


  12. I Just finished reading the book. This was an amazing book. I enjoyed it so much. It just touched my heart. It is one of the best books I have read. I am getting ready to watch the movie. As this was one of my english course assignment. I am to write an esssay compare/contrast between the novel and the movie. I am just so touched………


  13. I just finished the book and started watching the movie. I felt that the movie only glanced over most of the story. The movie didn’t convey, the deep regret and guilt that the book portrays. This was definitely a much better read than the movie.


    1. i agree with you jason, i feel if i hadn’t read the book before watching the film i would have been left a little cluless between the characters feelings and their close relationships.


  14. I read this book for my English class and watch the movie. Its straight, I liked the book better. The movie kinda skip around left things out.


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