Choosing hopeless despair or lack of depth: Kite Runner, the book vs. movie

Is the Book Better
Dustin White

It’s an age old question, is the book better than the movie? Often, the claim is that the book is better, as it gives more information. Yet, is that necessarily true? That is the question we will explore in this column.

The Kite Runner
In 2003, Khaled Hosseini wrote the book, “The Kite Runner,” and while 70,000 hardback copies would be sold, it wasn’t until the next year, when the paperback copy was released, selling more that one and a quarter million copies, that the book found its popularity.

By the time the movie was filmed, in 2007, millions of additional copies of the book had been sold. For many, it seemed that almost everywhere they looked, someone was reading “The Kite Runner.”

With the book having received so much attention, the movie had quite a bit to live up to, which can often be a risky endeavor.

Quite possibly even more risky though was the content of the work. With the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, still fresh in many minds, “The Kite Runner” exposed the reader to a view of Afghanistan, and citizens of Afghanistan that were easy to relate to, and while there was evil, it was also clear that the country, which had provided the individuals who attacked the United States, had much more to offer as well.

For those unfamiliar with “The Kite Runner,” the story is of a privileged Pashtun boy, named Amir, who lives in Kabul, Afghanistan, and his friend/servant, a Hazara, named Hassan. While the two children form a bond, that will stay with each throughout their lives, it is strained by cultural traditions, history and their own actions.

Living in a society that places Hassan, being a Hazara, below the Pashtun Amir, the friendship is complicated, and those complexities eventually unravel, as Amir chooses to betray his friend. A choice that will haunt him, and in the end, will drive Amir to try to right that wrong.

While the book and the movie tell the same basic story, there are differences, as one would suspect.

With the time constraints of the movie, the filmmakers needed to fit as much of the narrative into the final film as possible, while working in a limited medium. Thus, it was necessary to make important choices, as to portray the overall story accurately, while not cutting out pieces that were too important.

For the most part, the filmmakers were able to do that. The final film stays true to the overall story, and stands alone quite well.

However, since portions of the story had to be cut, the film does lack the depth that the book can give. With much more space available, the book is able to develop the characters better, as well as form the bond between Amir and Hassan to a deeper level.

For a movie though, lacking the bit of depth may not be a negative aspect. “The Kite Runner” is a tough work. As one reviewer called it, “it’s hell.” It is a tragic story, in which the tragedy never seems to lighten.

In the film, that tragic nature isn’t quite so consuming. There are instances of relief, and in the end, the outcome seems much more clear. There is a bit of hope, which I believe is needed.

On the other hand, the book displays what feels like an endless tragedy. The brief moments of hope are overshadowed by nearly complete despair, which only worsen over time. Worse yet, Amir never seems to really grow. While there are moments of strength, he seems to ultimately fail; a situation that the film remedies.

In the case of “The Kite Flyer,” it may not be prudent to say that either one is better. Instead, the book and movie are different.

Either version of the story is excellent, and has a lot to offer, especially since they delve into a culture and society that is often so misunderstood, and detail the history of how Afghanistan got to the place it was, the place from with the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were orchestrated.

On a personal level, I found myself enjoying the book much more, because the depth that it was able to give was greater.

However, the book also offers a story that is blanketed in despair, and offers little hope. It can be an incredibly difficult read, simply because the tragedy never seems to cease, but only deepens.

The movie, on the other hand, offers that same basic story, but can be easier to stomach. The depth may not fully be there, but neither is the hopeless despair.