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Kundun
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Kundun More at IMDbPro »

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66 out of 73 people found the following review useful:

incredibly beautiful movie

10/10
Author: joelally (ilikesoad@prodigy.net) from nashua, nh - usa
5 March 2001

I rented Kundun to further my quest to see all the Scorsese movies I can. I never expected such an incredible movie. I didn't want this movie to end. It's really difficult to describe how I feel about this movie since I have only viewed it once and was completely blown away, it left me in complete awe.

Like most when I first started watching Scorsese I thought that he did brilliant gangster films and that was his thing, but I have recently discovered that this couldn't be further from the truth. Fist seeing The Last Temptation of Christ and now Kundun I wouldn't care if Scorsese ever made another gangster film. It is easy to see that he is an artistic genius, the acting in the film was great, but I could have watched it on mute and still have been amazed.

If, like I was, you are unfamiliar with the Buddhist religion and the Chinese takeover of Tibet this film has even more to offer. Scorsese's risk of using real Buddhists to do all of the acting payed off better than I ever expected it would, the fact that we are hearing the story through the people it affected adds another level to this movie.

I cannot believe that this film only has a rating of 7 on this site. If you are a fan of Scorsese and are not sure you are going to like this just give it a chance, it deserves at least one viewing, if you give it that I am sure you will be amazed as I was. Scorsese's vision's in this movie are unlike any of his films, not to mention a great score by Phillip Glass.

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52 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

Scorsese's most under-appreciated film?

8/10
Author: David (davidals@msn.com) from Chapel Hill, NC, USA
16 September 2003

I was rendered speechless by KUNDUN when I first saw it, and subsequent viewing have only confirmed my impression that this is one of Scorsese's finest films. Yeah - it's slow and elegant. So what.

I've long held an admittedly superficial interest in Buddhism, and also been a fan of Scorsese, liking most of his films quite a bit, so I went into this with some biases, but with every viewing this seems like a richer film. I also think that Scorsese was in some ways far more at home with this material than he was given credit for being. The cinematography and performances are excellent - the cast of mostly non-actors is surprisingly good, and much of KUNDUN is staggeringly beautiful to watch.

It has also struck me that this film isn't as much of a departure for Scorsese as it first may seem - this film works well as something of a companion to LAST TEMPTATION OF Christ in that both pictures examine great faiths through spiritual figures in a way that personalizes the divine. This simply literalizes undercurrents running through a number of Scorsese's other films, which often turn on themes of loyalty, conviction and ethics (like the self-assurance, against massive obstacles, shown by Alice Hyatt in ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE). All evidence a worldview where some form of redemption or transcendance is possible. In their own ways, several memorable Scorsese characters - Sam Rothstein (CASINO), Henry Hill (GOODFELLAS), Rupert Pupkin (KING OF COMEDY), Paul Hackett (AFTER HOURS) and Alice Hyatt attempt this, some in ways that are desperate, comically misguided or just plain wrong, but they're all human, driven by some redemptive impulse nonetheless.

The Catholicism of Scorsese's youth places great value on the importance of ritual, which is also true of Buddhism, which is depicted in a detailed and respectful fashion here, and the rhythm of KUNDUN - where the chronology of events isn't (or at least doesn't seem) forced, but are instead allowed to unfold in a more naturalistic and lifelike fashion also seems to mirror Buddhist ideas admirably.

This is a far more complex film than it first might appear to be - far from being a simple biopic, KUNDUN is much much more. Definitely one of Martin Scorsese's least appreciated films.

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39 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

An exceptional film which refuses to compromise its artistic values

10/10
Author: Ben Johnson (bcj001@ns1.wmdc.edu) from Baltimore, Marylan
14 January 1999

"Kundun" is one of those rare masterpieces that unfortunately might be run over by more Hollywood acceptable films like "Titanic" and "Seven Years in Tibet" (both films that I still admire). While these films were great, their primary purpose seemed to be entertainment alone. Scorsese creates a work out of the bounds of traditional films; "Kundun" is at once a spiritual journey, a compelling story despite its downplayed action, and a delight for the eyes and ears. It is both entertainment and art. The audience isn't captivated by dramatic action, but simply because it is so beautiful. At the same time, it doesn't produce the slightly sleepy sensation other artistic works like "The Last Emperor of China" can, despite their beauty (I personally loved "Last Emperor"). Not once was I tempted to turn away from the screen.

Scorsese mixes symbolic images and a subtle yet emotionally stirring soundtrack into a non-traditional plot structure, creating an exotic and spiritual vision meeting the demands of its eastern inspiration.

I am not a historian, so I cannot speak about its accuracy, though from what I can tell, Scorsese did his homework. Even if that were not true, this film is not meant as a documentary. It has the same emotional power of the finest art, with a simplicity and directness which keeps it from being pretentious. If you add to this historical accuracy, all the better. But it is not meant to influence via facts but via emotion.

Even those viewers who don't normally sit through credits will most likely do so, simply for the chance to let the film soak in. You need the time to digest everything you've been shown and to sit in contemplative peace. This is a film that inspires and delights. It is the film I wish I could have created. Scorsese has certainly produced the best film of the year, if not more.

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35 out of 43 people found the following review useful:

Quite simply a great achievement

9/10
Author: Rovin from Vancouver, Canada
11 June 2000

I was very pleased to discover that this film wasnt the Scorcese dud some of the user comments and critics had suggested it to be. While I am no expert on Buddhism, I know enough about it to see how brilliantly Martin Scorcese and Melissa Mathison weaved the core philosophy into this tale of the Dalai Lama's formative years. They did it without succumbing to ostentation, sentimentality, or populist good vs evil film dramatics. And yet it showed us how human the child was--laughing as the monks meditated while a rat drank the ritual offerings; being frightened in the dark monastery; taking on the very great responsibility of leading a truly wise, noble and compassionate religion while being confronted by the threats of the modern world. I appreciated how they didnt portray the Chinese as simple villians--by including the scene where he dreams the army personnel are explaining to him why they embrace Mao's communism. And they also presented enough of the Buddhist ritual and way of life to show us how alien it is to western religions(the scene where they cut up the body for the vultures comes to mind), though they dont gloss it over by excluding comments about the Lama's isolation and loss of childhood or the corruption surrounding his first Regent. It was also quite moving to observe the devotion of his monks and people.

Scorcese really demonstrates here that he is a true film artist and master storyteller. I wholeheartedly concur with the commentator that compared this film to the Last Emperor--despite similar story frames and lengths, this motion picture doesnt drag at all. If this had been say, Steven Spielberg's project you would have expected to see some manipulative melodramatics and insincerity. And how can one not be impressed by the performances he got out of mostly non actors! That alone was amazing. The film maintained its pace from the early years to the Lama as an adult. From what little of the man I have seen on tv, his humor, and wisdom was conveyed remarkably well by Mathison's script and the actors chosen for the role.

Finally, his comment to the Indian guard near the end after being asked if he was the Lord Buddha--encapsulates the wisdom and the humility of its spiritual leader perfectly.

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28 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Another religious masterpiece from Scorsese

10/10
Author: Sean Gallagher (seankgallagher@yahoo.com) from Brooklyn, NY
23 February 1999

As "The Last Temptation of Christ" showed, Martin Scorsese is not a filmmaker interested in playing it safe when it comes to religion. Instead, he wants to get into the heart and soul of it. While that film was obviously closer to his heart, since he was raised Catholic, this one burns with the same conviction and passion. The difference is he and writer Melissa Mathison adjust themselves to the way of storytelling needed to tell the life of the Dalai Lama. Unlike say, "Little Buddha", though, where Bertolucci seemed to have no sense of distance from his subject, Scorsese does, so we are allowed to come to our own conclusions rather than having them shoved down our throats.

Visually and aurally, this is also a real treat, with the images being more powerful than anything Scorsese has done before. And while the music here is old territory for Philip Glass, he produces a stunning score which should have won the Oscar. The mostly non-professional cast(I did see a familiar face here and there, but I can't remember them) also does good work.

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27 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

"Dazzling to the eye and ear" A Masterpiece

10/10
Author: victorsargeant from United States BOULDER COUNTY COLORADO
19 June 2005

I have reviewed this film several times, and find new details I missed. How did they film this, and using non-professional actors, as well? Mysterious, magical, educational, and dazzling to the eye and ear. Seems much careful planning went into this production, a labor of Love. The Dali Lama, must be grateful his story, can now reach the world and his personal mission, may be recognized and possible fulfilled in his lifetime?

Like the "Last Emperor" and "Little Buddha" this "slice of the metaphysical river", is breathtaking in its visual beauty. A story that grabs your heart and soul, and you find yourself, thinking about it weeks later.

Now I have a "Free Tibet" sticker on my Pathfinder, out of reverence for this tiny country, raped by the political powers in control of China.

Bravo to the cast, and film crews.

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23 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

unbearably spiritual movie

Author: kys079 from Daejeon, South Korea
13 December 2004

I live in South Korea, so I didn't think I would get some insights about buddhism from a Western movie. But this movie shocked me a lot. Very beautiful and meaningful visuals, quiet but spiritually forceful atmosphere every single moments are in the movie, I could hardly breath during playing. This movie is not just about one man, but about the pain of all mankind and the way to transcend the pain and sin of ours in a very buddhist direction. China in this movie got a bad part. Ironically they were also victims of imperialism but learned the exact way to extort, destroy the property and beliefs of others by the power of machines. It was just sad to watch. But as Kundun implied, those violence's are in the shadow of our minds which should be overcame by the power of spirit. For me, this movie tells that.

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22 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

You can not liberate me, only I can liberate myself...

9/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
6 December 2006

"Kundun" is Martin Scorsese's most underrated film. It's something quite fantastic to watch such an amazing film about the early years of the Dalai Lama and the plight of Tibetan Buddhists knowing that it comes from a man who has long wrestled with his own religious ghosts (witness the still hotly debated conundrum that is his "Last Temptation of Christ"). With probably only "The Age of Innocence" to compare to in Scorsese's now hallowed canon, "Kundun" is a breathtaking work of art--visually sumptuous (with beautiful work from cinematographer Roger Deakins), hauntingly transcendental, and deeply symbolic.

As an outsider looking in, Scorsese manages to create an intimate level of detail that someone who lives and breathes Buddhism might have overlooked. Many rituals and practices are presented exactly as they are with no attempts to explain their purpose or translate their meaning to Western culture. This allows them to keep their rich symbolism, which translates perfectly to Scorsese's visual palette. From the rich colors of meditative sand art to the bright red blood spilled during China's unlawful occupation of Tibet, everything takes on a deeper meaning that leaves much to the imagination and higher mind.

Wisely, Scorsese follows the same template of Richard Attenborough's equally resonating Oscar winning epic "Ghandi" by adapting a straight forward approach to his presentation of the Dalai Lama's most tumultuous years. Except for a few dreamlike vision sequences, he stays mostly out of the man's head, and instead shows his power through his actions and dedication to his people and the practice of non-violence. "Kundun" is as near perfect a biopic as one can make.

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16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

An opera

10/10
Author: OttoVonB from Switzerland
17 July 2006

Tibet. The young boy who shall become the 14th Dailai Lama is discovered and trained. At an early age he has to deal with his country's invasion by the Chinese and is ultimately forced into exile.

Those expecting a Martin Scorsese film will be disappointed. This is not his typical kind of story and - fittingly - neither does it bear his typical direction. Using a cast of non-actors for the most part and opting for a more artful photographic style (kudos to DP Roger Deakins, veteran Coen collaborator, for his mesmerizing work here), Scorsese gives a truly spiritual film revolving around one of History's great tragedies. It is a feast of sights and sounds that succeeds in making Tibet alluring and makes for even more of a heartbreak for the viewer when this country is violated and destroyed. Perhaps as important as any other collaboration - if not more so - is the score by Philip Glass providing unusual but haunting melodies and depth.

Kundun is regarded by many as a misstep. It does wander a long way from the gangster territory and the familiar NYC surroundings Scorsese usually plays with. In truth, that such a comfortable veteran director might take such an artistic and financial risk is both surprising and inspiring. This will never gain the popularity of "Raging Bull" or "Goodfellas", because it speaks of a world that disappeared. Nevertheless, it might just be, with "Last Temptation of Christ", Scorsese's deepest and most important film.

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19 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Enlightening

10/10
Author: abundanz from Canada
2 March 2006

I feel I owe a debt of gratitude to Martin Scorsese for making this extraordinary film. Especially in light of it's controversial content. Here is a story that must be told and is so remarkably entertaining while being so deeply informative that I hesitate to make any comments at all. Why why why has this director NOT received the recognition he so richly deserves for his work, especially with this epic that out "performs" any epic extant, including the likes of "Cleopatra" "The Godfather" and so on. Are awards for honest brilliant work politically motivated? This film may be the watermark for all ambitious film makers in the future. Keep it real.

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