on May 11, 2004
This is a story about a stubborn and arrogant man who needs to push his body to its absolute limits, but who dedicates very little of his energy to his soul or intellect. That's the concept the unites this film and the book on which it was based. But ultimately films owe no debt to the books or the reality on which they are based (read the book "Monster" by the late screenwriter and author John Gregory Dunne if you need to get that straight).
Brad Pitt is not unwatchable as Heinrich Harrer, but you may cringe at his Austrian accent. Just remember that this film may not have been made at all without his interest and participation, and it wouldn't have been permitted the sort of budget that gave us the amazing landscapes which dominate the movie.
I suppose once they had their big star, casting went for the very finest actors they could find regardless of their status: therefore, we have two beautifully resonant performances by David Thewlis as Pitt's climbing companion and Lhapka Tsamchoe as the Love Interest.
This movie is about Heinrich Harrer, but there is some focus on his ties to the Dalai Lama. Very little screen time is spent in the camp for enemy aliens (those were YEARS of his life) or the difficult scrabble simply to exist once he escaped. The shots of the Dalai Lama's early childhood are there not only to foreshadow the important role the Dalai Lama ultimately plays, but also to establish a link between the child who befriends Harrer and the son who Harrer does not know.
The authenticity and detail of Tibetan life, dress, buildings, and so forth is rare and overwhelming. Even if it was staged, it is a good record of a lost time.
Further praise to the screenwriter (Becky Johnston) who translated a good book into a good movie. The addition of a few good laugh lines and the general development of character were well done.
Heinrich Harrer is an interesting man and merits a movie about his life. Of course, the elements of living in Tibet and developing a friendship with the Dalai Lama are crucial to the interest. For my part I've watched the movie several times and I always get deliciously lost in the scenery.
on September 9, 2003
I watched this movie for the first time when it was released in the theaters -- at that time I thought it was good, but not great. Since then, I've had a chance to attend an event in which the Dalai Lama spoke, and have come to see this movie in a new light. The story of the personal transformation of Harrar is uplifting and inspiring. I was moved by the tenderness between the young Dalai Lama and Heinreich Harrar. I used to be one of those that thought Brad Pitt was more suited to roles in "teen movies," but seeing "Seven Years in Tibet" proved me wrong. He has a depth in his acting that I didn't realize before. He portrayed Harrar with sophistication and complexity. He showed the arrogant, selfish side of his character with equal believability as his portrayal of the tenderness and grief Harrar must have felt in his growing love for his friends in Tibet.
on May 9, 2002
SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET
(USA - 1997)
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Panavision)
Theatrical soundtracks: Dolby Digital / SDDS-8
The only thing more beautiful than Brad Pitt in Jean-Jacques Annaud's low-key drama SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET is the astonishing location photography (Argentina, Canada, Austria and the Himalayas standing in for Tibet), rendered in glorious Panavision widescreen by cinematographer Robert Fraisse. Pitt, every inch the blond Aryan god, plays real life explorer Heinrich Harrer (on whose book this film is based), an arrogant Nazi bully who ran from his wife's unhappy pregnancy to conquer the Himalayas toward the end of the 1930's. Stranded there by the outbreak of World War II, Harrer found his way to the forbidden city of Lhasa, where his unexpected friendship with the teenage Dalai Lama (played with great warmth and sincerity by non-actor Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk) curbed his ruthless streak and provided him with a fresh outloook on life, until he was forced to flee the country following the Chinese invasion.
Suffering from unfair comparisons with Martin Scorsese's KUNDUN (1997), which opened shortly afterward - both movies were denounced by mainland Chinese officials - Annaud's film evokes the splendors of a remote mountain community founded exclusively on Buddhist principles (in an amusing sequence, Pitt is asked to build a movie theater without killing the hundreds of worms uncovered by his workers' excavations). It may be a Hollywoodized vision, but it's also respectful and, in places, deeply moving ("Do you think someday people will look at Tibet on a movie screen and wonder what happened to us?" the Dalai Lama asks Pitt in one of the movie's most self-referential moments).
When Chinese troops invade the Tibetan stronghold towards the end of the film, they display all the arrogance and hostility which had typified Harrer's behavior until he was transformed by the example of his gracious hosts. Distinguished by John Williams' majestic score (so much better than the tuneless dirge he provided for SLEEPERS the previous year), the film also features David Thewlis (NAKED) as Pitt's climbing partner, Lhakpa Tsamchoe as the beautiful woman who comes between them for a while, and B.D. Wong as a lowly Tibetan official whose vanity and cowardice prompts the downfall of his own culture.
on September 18, 2005
In this lengthy (132 min) basically true tale, Brad Pitt portrays an egotistical, selfish, pompous, despicable, Nazi jerk (admittedly, not a pleasant combination of characteristics) whose abhorrent personality ruins his marriage and alienates all around him. While on a mountain climbing expedition, he is captured and imprisoned by the British in India. After numerous escape attempts, he finally does achieve freedom and begins a long trek to the relative safety of independent Tibet. Unfortunately, outsiders are not welcome in Tibet, and thus begins a 7+ year ordeal which culminates in his becoming a tutor and friend of the youthful Dahli Lama. Through their interaction and strongly influenced by Tibetan culture, Pitt's character achieves a complete reversal of personality, emerging an infinitely better individual. How all this happens is both believable and beautifully presented.
I found Pitt's uneven German accent to be inaccurate and highly distracting, but this is my only complaint about the production. Photography, music and settings are magnificent....successfully capturing the essence of the Himalayas and 1940's Tibetan culture. For those not familiar with the Dahli Lama's current exile to India, this movie provides a clear and honest historical review of events that made it necessary. You will come to understand why, to this day, so many people support him and his country so fervently.
I recommend the movie to all mature viewers who appreciate superb scenery, epic scope, excellent acting (accents aside), insights into history and exotic cultures, and a heart-warming character renaissance.
on December 8, 2003
Seven Years in Tibet is the story of Heinrich Harrer, a german mountain climber, peripheral nazi party member, political prisoner, and egoist. He is off to defeat Nanga Parbet (probably messed up the spelling), a mountain in the Himalayas. Events occur, blah, and he is taken as a POW by some british troops at base camp. Apparently when he was on the mountain, germany declared war on england. He does manage to escape, with the help of a few other of the climbers, to Tibet, finally getting there with only one other, played by David Thewlis, an excellent actor. The two of them spend the titular seven years in Lhasa, the storied capital of Tibet, ancient as the hills, and forbidden to foreigners.
Here is where the detailed shadings of Pitt's character are revealed, both through his amazing ability to both comprehend and display the nuances of his character and every half-smile and subtle gesture that bring his character to life. Through his interactions with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, we see Harrer change, slowly, from egotistical and uninterested to close confidant and caring teacher/father/friend. I'm not a Brad Pitt fan, but have you to give credit where credit is due.
The story is based on the true experiences of Heinrich Harrer and the Dalai Lama (who is an amazing speaker, if ever he wanders your way, definately check it out, he has this way of simplifying any problem to a matter of love and understanding no christian ever could). The story is poignant, as we see the impending war with China, the pathetic and futile attempts of the TIbetans to raise a military, and the inevitable conquest. They're still under communist rule, and sometimes you'll see hippies or Rage Against the Machine (RIP) fans with "Free Tibet" bumper stickers on their cars, and this is what they're referring to. Anyway, the story itself is touching and well-scripted. There are a few quibble-able points, though. First, you are told in no uncertain terms how to feel about almost every character and situation. That's pretty much true. Oh, well. Next point. Some would say it's too "hollywood". I would disagree, however, because the only signs of a hollywood influence are the budget and the talent. Both lended themselves perfectly to their parts (Worth mentioning: the scenery, something only attainable with that crazy hollywood budget, is breathtaking. Money well-spent. Absolutely gorgeous, each location in perfect tune with both the story and the seasons).
That's pretty much it. Great story held up by great acting (check out that kid who played the Dalai Lama; he blew me away!) and made to feel lush and alive with astonishing locations. Worth renting if you're not sure you'll dig it, worth buying if you know you do.
There are so many spiritual moments in this movie. I was literally captivated from start to finish. The theme of mountain climbing was fascinating and the sheer beauty of the snow laden mountains gives the story a purity of spirit.
In my humble opinion, this is Brad Pitt's finest movie yet. As the Austrian mountain climber, Heinrich Harrer, he brings a sexy warmth to a freezing climate. At first Heinrich is only concerned with his own existence and is quite out of touch with his spiritual self. He abruptly leaves his very pregnant wife to fend for herself as he runs off to join an expedition to climb Nanga Parbat in British India in 1939.
He seems to be on a personal journey with destiny lending a hand. While climbing, he is captured and spends time as a prisoner of war. Not even this experience breaks the chains that seems to hold his soul captive. In his case, the enemy doesn't help him to develop patience and compassion. It takes the heart of a child to show him why he should climb down from the mountain of his own pride, so he can take on a higher challenge, love.
This is a breathtakingly beautiful story of two souls who find one another under the most hostile situation. For a brief moment in time, they know true friendship, despite the age and cultural differences.
Unfortunately, mankind is rarely happy with what they have and when Tibet comes under attack, the tranquility and harmony of the Tibetan city of Lhasa is completely destroyed.
While humans have the ability to destroy one another, they also have the ultimate responsibility to love one another and nothing is more difficult when your philosophies of life clash so horribly. While peace is the ultimate goal, this movie brings the realization that evil is alive and well and that at times, evil seems to have an upper hand in many countries.
Still, the hope for peace and happiness for every human burns in some hearts like a flame for the rest of the world to see. Finding a reason to live in a difficult situation and not running from your responsibilities to friends, family and country is also emphasized.
Thoughtful and will leave you with a feeling of peace and hope.
Quotes from the Dalai Lama I found recently:
When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect towards others.
We have to take seriously our concern for all of humanity. When we focus on our individuality, humanity inevitably suffers. Whether we love humanity or not, we must realize that we are part of it. That is why being compassionate is actually in my own best interest. And a symptom of my own peace of mind that I can share comfort with others around me.
It is constructive and worthwhile to analyze our emotions, including compassion and our sense of caring, so that we can become more calm and happy. Hatred, jealousy, and fear hinder peace of mind. When you're angry or unforgiving, for example, your mental suffering is constant. It is better to forgive than to spoil your peace of mind with ill feelings.
Altruism is the best source of happiness. There is no doubt about it.
~The Rebecca Review
on November 27, 2001
Seven Years in Tibet, being a true account, is a tale of journeys, both a physical journey and a spiritual one. The film centers around the selfish and arrogant Heinrich Harrer (Brad Pitt), an Austrian who joins an expedition to climb Nanga Parbat in British India in 1939. When World War Two breaks out, he is arrested with his team and interned in India. Finally he and his friend escape and make their way into Tibet, the remote country of which few foreigners had ever entered. After a harrowing and near death two year trek across the remote regions of Tibet, Harrer and his companion arrive in the forbidden city of Lhasa, home to the Dalai Lama of Tibet. After a few more years of living amongst the Tibetan people, Harrer is forced to leave after the Communist Chinese invade Tibet.
The movie does an excellent job of developing Harrer's character, who goes from being a lonely man who cares only for himself and his own personal glory, to a man who after encountering the gentle spirituality of the Tibetan people and the Dalai Lama, becomes a man who is at peace with himself and has attained his own level of self knowledge. While some may criticize Harrer as he was a member of the Nazi party, the film shows that he didnt really have any involvement with the party, and didn't seem too interested in the theories put forth by his country at the time. Besides, how can a man become friends with the gentlest people on earth and best friends with the human incarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion if he is a man of hatred and racism?
The film also realistically shows the true brutal nature of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Scenes of cultural destruction and genocide show the tragedy that engulfed Tibet, and that still continues to this day.
The actor playing the young Dalai Lama also does a wonderful job, playing the part with convincing compassion, wisdom and youthful earnestness that made him into one of today's most respected leaders.
One of the best aspects of the film is it's photography and eye for detail. Spendid shots of mountains (although filmed in the Andes, it is uncanningly identical to Tibetan Himalaya.), mist shrouded valleys, and the grand Potala Palace that towers high above Lhasa, create a visually stunning film.
on May 14, 2006
The Chinese genocide of the Tibetans is one of the most disgusting and disturbing events in modern history, on par with the Nazi treatment of the Jews. This is doubled by the fact that the western powers did and are doing nothing as members of an ancient civilisation dedicated to spiritual practice are exterminated by the chinese.
There are those who will deny this fact, if you are that ignorant then do not watch this film and write pathetic, twisted comments.
If you are more of a human being then you will enjoy this film. Far from perfect, the depictions of what Lhasa once looked like before the Chinese invasion are breath taking. The film shows Tibetan Buddhist monks being shot in cold blood by Chinese soldiers. This is shocking as it should be. This is what happened to thousands of monks in 6,400 monasteries. In the words of the Dalai Lama, 1,200,000 Tibetans have died as a direct result of Chinese occupation policies.
If you view this film and enjoy it, you might want to read of the plight of Tibet by the Dalai Lama himself. 'My Land and my People,' is an excellent book.
on October 21, 2002
Jean-Jacques Annaud, director of "Seven Years in Tibet", captures the essence of a non-violent culture during World War II, as Robert Fraisse recreates the forbidden city of Lhasa with his magnificent cinematography.
Brad Pitt portrays Heinrich Harrar, a selfish Austrian husband who alienates his pregnant wife to join a mountain climbing expedition in India. Harrar's team is caught and imprisoned in an English POW camp during the outbreak of World War II, and he and a partner, Peter Aufschnaiter (David Thewlis), cunningly make an escape to Tibet's holy city. In Lhasa, Harrar meets the Dalai Lama (Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk) who looks at the world in such amazing delight that it touches him deeply. Harrar and the Dalai Lama share their secrets of life, and Harrar becomes a renewed humanitarian full of charm and kindness.
Pitt has trouble mastering a German accent, but putting that aside he captures his character with expertise. Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk gives an astounding performance and seizes the audience's admiration. "Seven Years in Tibet" is definitely a history lesson that combines cultural, social, and humanistic views.
on January 10, 2001
jean-jacques annaud does a praiseworthy job of directing this pretty hefty movie. it's a little long, but most of the scenes are crucial to the movie's integrity. this is a true story (for the most part), after all. brad pitt does and admirable job portraying the somewhat arrogant, but lonesome heinrich harrer. his austrian accent is pretty bad, but that's excusable. harrer's trek through the himalayas is interrupted by british officers who arrest him and his fellow climbers as POWs as WWII has started. he escapes with others, leaves them, only to be rejoined by peter, the expedition's former leader. they travel to tibet, only to be kicked out, but later return to the city of lhasa, where harrer eventually befriends the young dalai lama. the tibetan leader is portrayed as a wise, but curious youngster, who always hounds the austrian with questions about his world in the west. it's hard not to avoid the cliche of harrer playing a father to him, having essentially left his wife and child behind, but as the dalai lama points out, their relationship is "far too informal for that" to be true. harrer eventually leaves because of the chinese invasion, which is the major backdrop to this story, showing the horror of this important, but oft-ignored historical event. the movie gives us a chance to glimpse into tibetan life and culture before the chinese destroyed much of it. the book will point out a few inaccuracies of the film, but this is a fairly faithful translation. the scenery is beautiful throughout, and are enough to make this movie worthwhile on that alone. pitt has earned my respect even more, since "fight club" was his only other major film that i really enjoyed. this one is quite different though, don't be fooled.