Monday, September 7, 2015

The Prophet, and Words and Pictures

These are two movies I watched in last few days. That's the only thing common in them for me.

The Prophet is an animation movie based on Kahlil Gibran's book The Prophet. Those who have not read it, it is a series of prose-poetry on various topics such as love, marriage, friendship, freedom, good and evil, death... It is highly dense philosophical text that has enlightened many. Personally, I have found it hard to understand in places; yet in places offering these gems that I can't help but keep reflecting on. For example:

Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.
For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?

The movie is a collage of animations, each depicting a poem from the book and created by a different team of well known animators. Each animation flows on the screen as the poem is recited or sung in the background. There is a story of Mustafa that strings these animation poems together - a story that is not told by Gibran's book. Its purpose is to add entertainment and humor to the otherwise very heavily philosophical content.

Words and Pictures is a romantic comedy. It is a story of falling in love of two professors: one of creative writing, and the other of painting. Their debate or war is about which is the stronger medium of expression: the words or the paintings. The argument includes that the art of drawing came earlier in human development than the art of words. Or that the words are caged by language, pictures are not, etc. etc.

A picture speaks thousand words, but sometimes thousand strokes are not enough to express what is conveyed by a word. Both, strokes and words are open to interpretation. Both can invoke feelings. Both are inspired by feelings. Both can be factual, or abstract, or everything in between.

When I watched The Prophet, this debate came back to my mind. What the movie does, or attempts to do I think, is to draw Gibran's philosophical words on the canvas with artistic styles rich with colors, strokes, animations. The animation "On Freedom" is all about caged birds, the one "On Marriage" is drawn with a couple dancing, so is the one for "On Love" etc. Each has a distinct visual style, of course, and is a beautiful piece of animation in itself. But so much is packed in Gibran's words, that it is not even fair to expect that these beautiful animations can do justice to the narration.

It is easy to end on a compromising note that "each medium has its strengths..."! I was never good at drawing. Ironically, one of my most favorite teachers in school was the drawing teacher. I owe it to her for getting me some success in those drawing exams, for getting the best out of me which was mediocre at best. I am better with words. I am more comfortable with words. So while I am occasionally moved by a picture, words still remain dearer to my heart. For the power they have on me, for the power they vest in me. I will watch the movie, The Prophet, to enjoy that beautiful richness of strokes; but it is the book that I have with me - the one that I open any time and read a piece over and over again.

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