Power, a common yet complex phenomenon, is explored in the screenplay, based on a true story, The Railway Man by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Andy Paterson, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
Through various filming and writing techniques, the careful construction of characters, and the structure of the narrative, the audience can identify which characters possess power and which do not. Although presented through different mediums, the authors of The Railway Man and The Kite Runner use various writing and filming techniques to help the audience understand the underlying theme of who possesses power in both texts. The screenplay uses the elements of mise en scène and cinematography to help the audience understand power play between the Japanese and English soldiers at Hellfire Pass during world war II.
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While the novel uses figurative language features such as metaphors to stimulate the readers imagination in attempt to highlight themes of who has power between the Pashtuns and Hazaras in Afghanistan both Pre-Soviet and after Taliban rule. Low angle shots and enhanced shouts of Japanese soldiers throughout the torture scenes of the screenplay, are used to portray the superiority of the Japanese soldiers toward the Prisoners of War (PoW) showing that they were powerless to retaliate against such force and brutality. In the same way, Khaled Hosseini portrays the Pashtun dominance through Hassan’s submissive response to being raped as ‘Hassan didn’t struggle. Didn’t even whimper’ at the hand of Assef. In emphasis of this, Hosseini compares Hassan to ‘the Lamb’, a sacrificial lamb, previously described as having the look of ‘acceptance in (its) eyes’.
Hassan is powerless to stop Assef and accepts his fate as a sacrificial lamb and servant to Amir as later in the book he is forced to serve his rapists drinks at Amir’s 13th birthday party because of his Hazara background and servant status. However, the climatic scenes of The Railway Man portray a shift in power as the low angle shot is used to portray Lomax, an English PoW, as more powerful than Nagasi, a Japanese soldier. Nevertheless, unlike the screenplay, Hassan, as a Hazara, is never granted an opportunity to take back power from the Pashtuns yet is publicly executed for his ethnic background. It is through the construction of the characters in The Railway Man and The Kite Runner that the authors can communicate most effectively the purpose behind the written narrative. Both the novel and screenplay introduce the main characters Lomax and Amir respectively in the present, both with a past that still haunts them.
However, it is through the unravelling of the text that major similarities and differences can be seen in both Amir and Lomax’s life in terms of how they use power or respond to those who possess it. Amir and Lomax both experience the traumatic effects of war, however, Lomax experienced, first hand, the atrocities of war as a British soldier, while Amir was a sheltered rich young boy who escaped a war-torn country before the war could intensify. Lomax was not a combatant soldier and therefore, like Amir, ‘a thin boy’, did not appear strongly built, yet they were both gifted with intelligence. Lomax’s intelligence is seen at the fall of Singapore as he does not destroy the radio, as instructed, yet harvests it for useful components that might aid them as prisoners of war.
Amir, however, uses his education to assert superiority by secretly playing trick on Hassan due to his illiteracy. Amir while in Afghanistan can be likened to Nagasi, a translator for the kemputai, as he is a Pashtun and therefore possessed power over the Hazaras. Like Nagasi, Amir abused his power, using it to harm Hassan and Ali for his own entertainment and gain. It is through the privileges given to Amir by the author, such as intelligence and social status, that allows him to act accordingly towards Hassan and Ali even though he does not possess the physical strong to impose power.
Nagasi in the same respect is considered to yield power as he is Japanese and Lomax the prisoner of war, therefore, although intelligent, Lomax is unable to exercise this power publicly. However, through surreptitious acts such as numbering off in card terms, building a radio and standing up for his friend shows that he is more in control of his life than either Amir or Nagasi, therefore having inner strength and power.