1 September 2015 | RforFilm
While it lacks a flowing pace, The Prophet makes up with glorious artistic expression
In terms of film, there is a difference between an anthology and a collective set of work. Trick r Treat and The Twilight Zone: The Movie are anthology movies as each have a story is somewhat connected to the next and have reoccurring characters that might meet up. Fantasia is the prime example of a series of collected works. The same team may have been behind all the shorts, but they weren't meant to be published as a flowing set. Nothing about Fantasia's stories would confuse people into thinking that "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and "The Nutcracker Suite" would be connected. Each story of Fantasia is it's own thing and is simply within the film because the filmmaker has chosen to put it in there.
One reason we don't see a lot of collective works set to one film is that a lot of people come to a movie to escape into one long story. That's not to say that there are people that like a set of short stories, but it's been proved by the studio system that a mainstream audience wants to see safer content. While you might find short film series' in a film festival, The Prophet is a collected work of artistic expression.
In a village within an unnamed middle eastern country, young speechless Almitra (played by Quvenzhané Wallis) is considered a trouble maker by her village as she is a compulsive thief and can make bird noises that allow her to communicate with seagulls. Her mother Kamila (played by Salma Hayek) tries to keep her under control now that she is a single mother (the fathers death is said to be the cause of Almitra loosing her speech) and working at a political prison. Finding school uninteresting, Almitra follows her mother to work and finds someone special behind a gate.
She finds an older but kind man Mustafa (played by Liam Neeson) who is an artist and a writer who has spent seven years under political arrest for writing controversial content that detest's the government. Mustafa and Almitra bond as the latter expresses his thoughts on life, love and freedom, as shown by segmented shorts that are usually just artsy expression of his essays. Two guardsmen (played by Alfred Molina and john Krasinski) are responsible for taking him to a ship that can return the artist to his home country, but the people may not be ready for him to leave.
Part of me really wanted to love The Prophet as it's rare to see a hand drawn animated movie and it really has passion for the essays as written by Lebenon artist Kahlil Gibran. The shorts are well done and look beautiful. It almost felt like that I was watching Fantasia again. But there's a problem; the movie tries to put them into a narrative.
I have nothing against this idea, but the movie's perspective is through the child and not the artist. This means that the story is simple and has been created as an attempt to be family entertainment. The content is tame, but I would think that most kids would find much of the artistic expression really boring.
What's weird is that I have nothing wrong with the actual story of a girl bonding with the artist and a village coming together as one. The voice acting is great and the animation looks nice. When the main narrative and the shorts are separated, their both magnificent. But when put together, it's tone is inconsistent, never finding a ground that can attract both children and adults.
Given I'm conflicted, I'll give this four collected works of Kahlil Gibran out of five purely on an artistic level. As inconsistent as the setting is, I still recommend the movie simple for it's animation. I'd say only see this if you really want to see another rare hand drawn movie.