All prophet, no loss. Wait, what?
Based on the writings of Kalil Gibran, The Prophet takes place in a Mediterranean village, where Kamila (Salma Hayek, Dogma) takes a job as housekeeper for Mustafa (Liam Neeson, Taken), a writer and artist living in political exile. Kamila’s daughter Almitra (Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild) gets to know Mustafa and his philosophies.
That’s pretty much it. The Prophet is a mostly plotless movie. Mustafa waxes eloquently about all the bigger-picture-in-life topics, such as love, freedom, happiness, and death, while little Almitra listens precociously. Along the way, he learns he can return to his home country, but it’s not until the one hour and four minute mark (I checked) that there’s an actual plot development when the whole living in political exile thing creates some complications. Even this generates little tension and it’s resolved simplistically.
There’s no story, so that means this is a mood piece. Several times throughout the movie, everything comes to a halt so Mustafa can impart some wisdom. Each time this happens, we’re treated to a short movie-within-the-movie that the filmmakers call “poems.” These were crafted by nine international animators, each in a different style, set either to music or to Liam Neeson’s narration. These sequences are really the driving force of the film, much more than the Mustafa story. This means the movie is all about the visuals and philosophical teachings. This is will be intriguing and thought-provoking for some, but frustrating for those hoping for mainstream fare like Minions.
The visuals are the number one reason why you want to see The Prophet. The whole movie looks just gorgeous. Although created with CGI, efforts have been made to make it look like hand-drawn 2D, with watercolor-like backgrounds. The character movements and facial animation are all smooth, lifelike, and nicely detailed. It’s in the “poem” sequences where the visuals really shine. One, about love and marriage, is a man and a woman in an elaborate dance, and it’s ten or so minutes that will take your breath away. Others dive deeper into symbolism, with crazy imagery involving birds, water, plant life, and more. Another, about parenting and childbirth, featuring a strange metaphor of pregnant woman as a bow and arrow, but perhaps this is something more common in another culture than a horrifyingly ethnocentric American like me might know.
The beautiful animation sparkles spectacularly on Blu-ray, with smooth animation, vivid colors, and rich detail. The disc comes with two featurettes on making the movie, and the technical challenges involved. There is also an animatic. A DVD copy and digital download are included.
The Prophet will likely divide viewers. Some will love its ideas, and its stunning visuals. Others will be frustrated by its lack of story and its deliberate pace. Give it a try if you’re looking for something outside the norm.