The Swallows of Kabul

August 6, 2020

animation, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

...a superb parable, with a lump-in-the-throat ending that’s more moving than most live-action movies... there is beauty here too, both moral and visual. Very highly recommended.
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The Swallows of Kabul

Mark Demetrius
Year: 2019
Rating: M
Director: Zabou Breitman, Elea Gobbe-Mevellec
Cast:

Simon Abkarian, Zita Hanrot, Swann Arlaud (voices)

Distributor: Filmink Presents
Released: August 20, 2020
Running Time: 81 minutes
Worth: $18.00

FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

…a superb parable, with a lump-in-the-throat ending that’s more moving than most live-action movies… there is beauty here too, both moral and visual. Very highly recommended.

Set in Kabul in 1998 – when it was under Taliban control – this film gets us in immediately with its exquisite naturalistic animation. The sights – and equally the sounds – of the city’s street life are uncannily vivid.

Given the context, it comes as no surprise that events quickly unfold in a very heavy and brutal way. We witness a woman being stoned to death for “fornication”, and various less stark but crushing examples of the depressing nature of war. All of this is cleverly offset – yet not undermined – by the delicate subtle ‘look’; it’s all pastel or muted colours, like a watercolour painting come to life.

The focus initially is on young and liberal-minded married couple Mohsen and Zunaira. He’s a teacher and she’s an artist. Without giving anything away, let’s just say that a key tragic event changes their lives irrevocably.

There is also another couple at the heart of this story, or rather modern fable: prison guard Atiq and his wife Mussarat, who is dying of cancer. Atiq has a stern and stoical manner, and follows the rules. That is, needless to say, not easy to do in a ‘world’ where people are clubbed with rifles for the slightest infraction, and women are casually whipped in the street. The misogyny and fanaticism are so extreme that a friend of Atiq can advise him that “No man owes anything to a woman”, so he should dump Mussarat and “find a virgin and have children”.

The Swallows Of Kabul is proof – if any were needed after so many prior instances – that animated films can be serious adult art. Occasionally it teeters on the edge of cliche, but then it pulls back and redeems itself. It’s very powerful, and a superb parable, with a lump-in-the-throat ending that’s more moving than most live-action movies. Amidst the ugliness there is beauty here too, both moral and visual. (In the snowcapped mountains and even – somehow – the dilapidated buildings.) Very highly recommended.

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