After the death of 11 climbers, Austrian Heinrich Harrer (Brad Pitt) decides to add glory to his country and to the German pride by climbing Nanga Parbat in British India, and leaves his expectant wife behind. Egoist and a loner, he does not get along with others on his team - but must bend to their wishes after bad weather threatens them. Then WWII breaks out, they are arrested and lodged in Dehra Dun's P.O.W. Camp. He attempts to break out in vain several times, but finally does succeed along with Peter Aufschnaiter (David Thewlis), and end up in the holy city of Lhasa - a place banned to foreigners. They are provided food and shelter, and Peter ends up marrying a tailor, Pema Lhaki, while Heinrich befriends the Dalai Lama. He meets regularly to satiate the child's curiosity about the world, including Jack the Ripper and 'yellow hair'; in return he is exposed to teachings of Lord Buddha and even constructs a movie theater, while getting news of the end of the war; his divorce; and ... Written by
"Seven Years in Tibet" was a pleasant surprise. Sporting an Austrian accent that got slammed by some critics, I thought Brad Pitt was pretty good as an arrogant Nazi who finds himself captured by the British during a failed expedition to the Himalayas and is later stranded in Tibet after escaping from a POW camp. He finds his humanity in the forbidden-to-foreigners city of Lhasa, especially after meeting the 14 year old Dalai Lama. Echoes of "Lost Horizon," "The King and I" "Last Emperor" and others abound, but the movie is "old Hollywood" in the best sense with magnificent scenery (widescreen advised: the mountains and countryside of Argentina and Canada stand in for Tibet). The heart of the movie is the relationship between the blond Aryan golden boy and the young "Kundun," with a performance by the young Tibetan actor playing the latter that is so charming he nearly steals the whole film. An engrossing blend of fact and fiction, the picture manages to avoid condescending to the Tibetans and over-reverent preachiness. Wrapped in an excellent production, this epic story makes entertaining viewing. One question: how did the young Dalai Lama come by his love of movies in that remote location?
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