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
A moving, well-crafted, and visually breathtaking film
First of all, Seven Years In Tibet is a very aesthetically pleasing film. The snowy Himalayas, the Tibetan villages, and the amazing costumes and religious ceremonies are all filmed beautifully, with rich colours and lighting. The music by John Williams is also excellent, and it's fascinating to hear how it blends with the unusual Tibetan music.
It's not all surface though, there's depth here too. Don't believe the negative comments about Brad Pitt's acting. Admittedly his accent slips a bit in places, but he does a great job as Heinrich, both the unpleasant, arrogant character at the beginning, and the more gentle and wise man that he becomes as the film progresses. His relationship with the young Dalai Lama (a very impressive actor) is an unusual one and refreshingly unsentimental. The film is well edited; scenes are not drawn out any longer than they need to be. As a whole, it is fast paced but also peaceful, tender and moving. You don't get bored but you're not bombarded with pointless action scenes either.
It's a pleasant surprise to see a Hollywood film where women and other cultures aren't treated as objects, and are allowed to be full, complex characters. It could be argued that this film has a Western perspective, but after all, it is adapted from a book written by a European living in Tibet, and intended for Western audiences. It treats the Tibetan culture with a great deal of respect, so I don't really see a problem with that. Similarly, those who have complained that it doesn't tell you enough about the Dalai Lama and too much about Heinrich, ultimately it is Heinrich's story, and that is its strength: that it is one man's tale, and not a political polemic. It gives you a great sense of how people's stories intersect and how the whole world is connected.
Overall, an unusual film, very involving and emotional without sentimentality, with wonderful music and outstanding cinematography. Highly recommended.
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