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Seven Years in Tibet

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Seven Years in Tibet

Starring: Brad Pitt, David Thewlis
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 131 Minutes
Release Date: October 1997
Genres: Action, Drama

*Also starring: B.D. Wong, Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuck

Review by Walter Frith
No Rating Supplied

It doesn't really bother me when films take poetic license with true stories and twist them somewhat to fit the needs of entertainment. 'Amadeus', 'Mississippi Burning', 'Nixon' and other films have tinkered somewhat with history but still were great films made by talented people. 'Seven Years in Tibet' probably would have made a better foreign language film but it still receives a passing grade for its story of bonding and bringing together two alien cultures that shows the world can be made a better place through understanding at a time when the world was on the brink of its darkest time in history.

Brad Pitt does well in an 'accent' role as Austrian mountain climber Heinrich Harrer who meets the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud ('Quest for Fire', 'The Name of the Rose', 'The Lover', 'The Bear') is a director of extremely withdrawn proportions. His films are cold and devalue the underlying point of emotion but he finds a niche for this film and makes it pay off well but the film is no classic. It's well made and is more of a "memorable scene here and there" type of movie. In Vienna, 1939, Heinrich Harrer is about to embark on the Himalayan peak of Nanga Parbat. He and his team are taken prisoner by the British (World War II has just broken out) and Pitt later escapes and comes in contact with the Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, the way the movie introduces us to Harrer and his capture, occupies the first half of the film when something like this could have been told in about 40 minutes.

Harrer begins to tell the Dalai Lama (Jamyang Wangchuk) about his world. The young man is fascinated by it all and wants to understand as much of it as he can. The film is written by Becky Johnston based on the book by Heinrich Harre and the film's most outstanding trait is the cinematography by Robert Fraisse.

I don't know how Hollywood manages to do it and many times make it a success, but they always put many films on a collision course with each other. In 1984 we had the three "save the farm movies" --- 'Country', 'The River' and 'Places in the Heart' right up to 1997 where we had two erupting volcano movies like 'Dante's Peak' and 'Volcano' to 1998 with two giant meteor movies like 'Deep Impact' and 'Armageddon'. Martin Scorsese's 'Kundun', also released in 1997 with 'Seven Years in Tibet' is a much better film about the Dalai Lama in terms of technical aspects. In fairness, because the Dalai Lama was in many ways a character in history that was hard in getting to know, both films about him in 1997 tried but came up just short of capturing more than just the superficial side of the man. Perhaps that's a good thing as many films are better left to the imagination when you leave the theatre or pop the cassette out of your VCR.

Copyright 1997 Walter Frith

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