The novel The Kite Runner was written by the Afghan author Khaled Hosseini. It was published in 2003 by Riverhead Books and was adopted to the movie theatres in 2007 under the same name. The novel is claimed to be the first Afghan novel written in English, and became an international bestseller, which was published in 40 countries.
Both the book and the film follows practically the same storyline, though the book gives you a more detailed and profound look into the lives of the main characters. Where the book uses expressive and complex reflections made by the narrator, in this case the main character Amir, to show emotion and to create a certain atmosphere, the film uses different special effects and music to transmit the same set of emotions.
The plot of the book is concentrated around the main character Amir and his sometimes troublesome childhood in Kabul, Afghanistan, despite the fact that his father is a well respected and wealthy man. The Hazard servant's son, Hassan, is Amir's best friend, and together they explore the streets of Kabul, with kite tournaments and threatening bullies. Hassan faithfully run the kites for Amir and protects him from the bullies, to win Amir's respect.
However, during a horrible incident Amir betrays Hassan by not stepping in when Hassan is violently abused. Deeply troubled by guilt, combined with a longing for his father's approval and affection, he ultimately devise a plan to drive Hassan and his father out of the household to get rid of the source of his misery and guilt.
During the soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Amir and his father escape to America, where they have to build up their life all over again, and which evidently drives them closer together, and the bond between them grows stronger. Though Baba never completely understands his son's wish to become a writer, he eventually respect Amir's decision and gain a new respect for his son.
Amir marries Soraya, and becomes a published author before his father's death. Rendered childless Amir and Soraya's relationship is slowly falling apart, when Amir receives a call from his father's friend Rahim Khan, who makes Amir realize that there is a way to be good again. This call convince Amir that he has to make a final journey back to Afghanistan to collect Hassan's orphan son, Amir's nephew, and bring him back to America. Not only to clear himself from the sin and guilt he has cost on himself, but also to clean up after his father, who had made the decision to keep his fatherhood to Hassan hidden for so many years.
The film follows the storyline of the book closely, though leaving out some key elements which give the film a less complete expression. In general, the film move quite quickly from event to event, which sometimes leaves the different scenes a bit incomplete and might leave the audience with a lot of unanswered questions.
The first part of the film, which portrayed Amir's childhood in Kabul, was quite short which did not give Hassan and Amir's relationship enough time to develop. Important events and elements was left out which would have contributed to emphasize the strong bond between Hassan and Amir, and to describe Amir's fight for his father's approval. Certain things was left out of the film which might have made it easier for the audiences to understand the strong emotions which is really present under the surface. Amir, though he does not show it in fear of spoiling his chances of his father's affection, retain a great deal of jealously towards Hassan when he is show affection by Baba, in the form of caress or gifts. Deep down inside all he really wants is to have his father for himself, and this is one of the things that does not become completely clear in the film. To give an example; Hassan was born with a deft lip and one of Baba's gifts to Hassan was an operation which fixed this and which left him with a small scare stretching from the middle of his upper lip and to the lower parts of his nose; a scare which is identical with the scare Amir was left with after the fight with Assef, the Taliban leader, whom as a child raped Hassan. This scare is a constant reminder of Amir's mistakes a young boy.
Along with Hassan's deft lip, the rape of Hassan was one of the things that was not shown to its full length, which obviously was done to spare the audience from such cruelty. The relationship between Baba and Hassan's father, Ali, is also one of the elements that received where little space in the film. Their relationship was truly just was strong as Hassan and Amir's seeing they have grown up together, and the relationship was an important motive for the decision Baba made to let Ali and his son stay. After Amir's betrayal of Hassan, Baba let Hassan and Ali leave much easier than he did in the book, which does not do anything to show the strong relationship between Ali and Baba.
Amir and Baba's life in America was quite different in the film than in the book. In the book, while Amir had integrated into the American society, Baba was clearly struggling to do the same, and cannot let go of the life he had in Afghanistan. For that reason he seemed like a depressed and frustrated person, but the fact that he stayed in America for his son, truly showed us how much he really love him, which is a big difference form the way he had acted before. In the film things was very different. Though Baba might not have been fully integrated, he seemed much more happy, and even sought contact with Americans.
Upon Amir's arrived back in Afghanistan he met with Rahim Khan, who made him realize that it was a way he could repay the mistakes he had made as a child, but it is not completely clear whether Rahim Khan knew about Amir's betrayal of Hassan. The guilt Amir felt for his actions, not only in this scene, but in the whole film, is not portrayed as strongly as it should have been, seeing it is such an important aspect of his life, and which, in the end, was what makes him the man he became.
The parts of the book portraying Hassan's life as an adult was left out all together, and all we learn was either told to Amir by Rahim Khan or told by Hassan in a short letter he had written to Amir. This was such an important part of the book and some might fell disappointed that the adult life of Hassan is so vaguely described. The conversations between Amir and his driver in Afghanistan, Farid, was excluded as well, which is a shame, because it is such a significant part of why Amir acknowledged that the Afghanistan he thought he knew in and out, only was a delusion, and that the real Afghanistan was something completely different.
The kite tournament was given a lot of time in the film, and was beautifully and breathtakingly shoot. However, somehow they did not fully manage to convey the strong bond between Hassan, as the kite runner, and Amir, as the kite fighter, and the devotion Hassan felt for Amir. This is a shame because it is through the kite flying the connection between them truly shine through.
The fight with Assef was not as brutal as it was in the book and Amir did not have to spend several weeks in the hospital. The fight was suppose to have been a fight between Assef and Amir to determined who should keep Sohrab, but in the film it was illustrated as a solely one man-battle where Assef was the one doing the beating, and not an arranged fight. However, the part where Sohrab saved Amir with the slingshot was included, which is such an important event, because that was exactly what Hassan had done for Amir, and it showed us that Sohrab truly wanted to go with Amir.
In the book Amir burst in to laughter while Assef was beating him, but sadly this did not happen in the film. This event was important because Amir at this point finally felt like he had received his punishment for what he had done to Hassan and felt totally at peace.
Assef's appearance was also completely different from the way he was described in the book. In the book he was described as a blond blue-eyed boy who towered over the other children, and who used his brass knuckles to gain respect and to make people afraid of him, and it was exactly this that made him seem so much more threatening than other boys. However, the Assef we met in the film was a quite ordinary Afghani boy, and though he was a bully and walk within his circles as if he owned them, he did not seem as frightening as in the book.
After Amir's stay at the hospital, which was absent in the film, Amir and Sohrab had to face a great deal of challenges at the US embassy, because Sohrab legally could not be called a orphan and for that reason it was difficult for Amir to be able to adopt Sohrab. During this period they also struggled with other things, like the difficulty of making Sohrab trust Amir and Sohrab's attempted suicide when Amir betrays Sohrab by telling him that he might have to return to an orphanage, after swearing that he would never have to. Sohrab was suffering both mentally and physical after the loss of his parents and the period of time he was abused by Assef, and for that reason he had trouble trusting grow-ups in the fear of being assaulted again. The hardship the two of them went through together is important for the overall story, and by leaving this out in the film it seems a bit incomplete and somehow Amir's journey to Afghanistan, to get redemption, flow to easily for the film to play out to its full potential. Amir never get the opportunity to truly fight for what he knows is right and what he has to do, and by doing so, fully paying back for the mistakes he has made.
The film was s a fear adaption of the book, even most of the dialogues is taken directly from the book, and tells us the key elements to understand the outlining of the story, but we never get to truly know the character's on a personal leave, as I had wished we would. It fulfil its purpose of telling the story, though leaving key elements out does not do well for the film overall. By leaving out such important things gives the film a quite blank expression, and we never truly get an insight in to the problems the characters face on an emotional level. Audience who watch the film without reading the book would probably be left a bit clueless about the character's emotions and the relationship between them, though it might be to satisfaction, but having read the book I did miss a bit more character information.
One of the things I think would have taken the film up to a whole new level, is a voice-over by the main character, Amir. By doing this we would have gained access to a completely different level of emotions that would have given the film depth. Seeing that the narrator's reflections are such an important part of the book, I wish it had been included in the film.
I think one of the best things about the film was the portraying of the Afghan community and the beautiful landscape. Even though it was quite brief and might not have given us the entirely correct picture, the film also gave us an insight on the history of Afghanistan and the present situation, which I personally think is very important to know something about.
The filmmakers have made the mistake of trying to create an exact replicate of the book, by following the book's storyline so closely that the film ends up moving too fast and loses its depth. Do not misunderstand me; the film as a production and as a whole, with great special effects like fog to create a gloomy and darker atmosphere; sound effects, for example during the kite tournaments, and expressive and beautifully composed music, was splendid. However, compared with the book, the film fall short, and does not manage to reach out and touch the heart of the audience in the same way as the book did. Somehow, because of the lack of emotion, you do not feel the same sense of compassion and sympathy for the characters. Therefore the film seems like a lighter and less touching version than the book. Where you in the book feel a sense of empathy towards everything that is described, the film in a way renders you quite careless about the faith of some of the things and characters you see.