Thursday, August 8, 2013

One-Shot: The Kite Runner (2007)

Years after seeing Marc Forster's adaptation of THE KITE RUNNER I mostly remembered the costume colors. So when I revisited it last week in the course of studying Forster's personal film making style I still found the colors to be most attractive. Considering that they are based on the now well-worn drama cliché of blue against sandy brown this is saying a lot. There is so much variation throughout the film that I cannot possibly do justice to the color design in this short "one-shot" post. But since Marc Forster is very deliberate and particular when it comes to colors in his films I would like to highlight two facets that I liked in THE KITE RUNNER.

From two-colored present America back to three-colored Afghanistan
Having just received the specimen copies of his first novel, Amir (Khalid Abdalla) gets a phone call at home that triggers memories of his youth in Kabul. Both he and his wife wear dark blue clothes against more or less monochrome sandy colored surroundings.
When one of his late father's friends calls, a flashback to Amir's happy childhood days in Kabul sets in. At first the color scheme is basically the same but the blue is more vivid, less repressed.
Then suddenly a second kite brings orange and green into the frame. The lighting seems naturally golden. Then we see a young boy whose clothes are orange, blue and sandy brown.
These are no doubt the quintessential 1970s colors (a title overlay states the year 1978). And although this story is set in an Oriental desert, we soon learn that the Afghans are indeed influenced by American fashion (movies and cars).
Young Amir's (Zekeria Ebrahimi) best friend Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada) is clad in blue in this expository scene of their close friendship and interdependency.

Soon we meet Amir's Baba (Homayoun Ershadi) and his best friend Rahim Khan (Shaun Toub). Rahim's orange shirt and tie against a gray suit, by the way, was the color scheme that I remembered most vividly:
Although the apartment looks very warm and golden, DOP Roberto Schaefer managed to keep the gray suits from looking muddy. It is this slight contrast of gray against sandy brown that makes this color scheme stand out from the many sepia toned, nostalgically warm stereotypes I have seen over the year (just think of interior scene in any recent Woody Allen film). In many ways, it is equal to the color design of FANTASTIC MR. FOX which is also reminiscent of the 1970s.
Marc Forster's scenes are usually very tightly composed in matters of color design but not as obviously flashy as in Jerry Bruckheimer or James Cameron movies.

[Note: Later on in present Pakistan the overall color scheme is still based on sand and blue but feels a lot colder.]

Green stands out
The one color that seems to have a special significance to Marc Forster is green (J.M.Barrie's apartment and the park in FINDING NEVERLAND, 2004; the fatal green apple in STRANGER THAN FICTION, 2006). I have found it to be very deliberately used in all of his features except QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008) (although Forster mentions a green door in an interview), where at least the villain was named Dominic Greene.

I have not yet found out if there is a recurring symbolic meaning to it or if Forster uses it in a new context in every film. In THE KITE RUNNER, Amir stand on green Californian meadows in the beginning and end, but in Afghanistan (and later Pakistan) there is hardly a green piece of cloth except in two connected scenes.

After Amir has abandoned Hassan he schemes how to get rid of his too loyal friend. During the preparation for his birthday party he asks his father to send Hassan's father away. Soon after he comes up with a more effective plan to betray Hassan. He lies to Baba - who now wears a green jersey - telling him that Hassan has stolen Amir's watch.
Amir's plan works out when Hassan loyally takes the blame on and his father decides to leave for good.

I have yet to look at the film more closely to see if there is another instance of Amir or his father wearing green and if there is a connection to Amir's betrayal that serves as his narrative backstory wound that motivates the film.

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