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4.4 out of 5 stars 260 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Praised as one of the best films of the year, KUNDUN is a motion picture masterpiece directed by five-time Academy Award(R)-nominated director Martin Scorsese. It's the incredible true story of one of the world's most fascinating leaders -- Tibet's Dali Lama and his daring struggle to rule a nation at one of the most challenging times in its history. Powerfully told and set against a backdrop of world politics -- the film's release created an international uproar! Featuring a striking Oscar(R)-nominated score by renowned composer Philip Glass, this extraordinary motion picture has been greeted with both controversy and worldwide acclaim -- experience it for yourself!


It would be a mistake to call Kundun a disappointment, or a film that director Martin Scorsese was not equipped to create. Both statements may be true to some viewers, but they ignore the higher purpose of Scorsese's artistic intention and take away from a film that is by any definition unique. In chronicling the life of the 14th Dalai Lama, Kundun defies conventional narrative in favor of an episodic approach, presenting a sequential flow of events from the life of the young leader of Buddhist Tibet. From the moment he is recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama in 1937 to his exile from Tibet in the wake of China's invasion, the Dalai Lama is seen as an enlightened spiritual figurehead. This gives the film its tone of serenity and reverence but denies us the privilege of admiring the Dalai Lama as a fascinating human character. There's a sense of mild detachment between the film and its audience, but its visual richness offers ample compensation. In close collaboration with cinematographer Roger Deakins, Scorsese filmed Kundun with great pageantry and ritual, and meticulous attention to details of costume, color, and the casting of actual Buddhist monks in the scenes at the Dalai Lama's palace. Certain images will linger in the memory for a long time, such as the Dalai Lama's nightmarish vision of standing among hundreds of dead monks, their lives sacrificed in pacifist defiance of Chinese aggression. Is this a film you'll want to watch repeatedly? Perhaps not. But as a political drama and an elegant gesture of devotion, Kundun is a film of great value and inspirational beauty--one, after all, that perhaps only Scorsese could have made. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong, Gyurme Tethong, Tulku Jamyang Kunga Tenzin, Tenzin Yeshi Paichang, Tencho Gyalpo
  • Directors: Martin Scorsese
  • Writers: Melissa Mathison
  • Producers: Barbara De Fina, Jeanne Stack, Laura Fattori, Melissa Mathison, Perry Santos
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Letterboxed, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Walt Disney Video / Mill Creek
  • DVD Release Date: October 14, 1998
  • Run Time: 134 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (260 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6305090580
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,015 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Kundun" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Toshifumi Fujiwara on October 6, 2000
Format: DVD
One of the beauties of KUNDUN comes from the way it preserves and recreates a culture that is now almost extinct, of a Tibet which is now almost completely destroyed. And it is a beautiful culture, where almost every detail is related with spiritual value, the very values that our contemporary culture is in the verge of completely losing them, yet still so essential to human life. To see this film is, first and foremost, like a meditation.
Dante Ferretti's design recreating faithfully the traditional costumes and building with a great reality, with Roger Deakins beautiful cinematography (which depth, nuances and richness of colors are so beautifully transferred on this DVD), as well as Philip Glass's music, make KUNDUN a visual poem. Also must be noted is Thelma Schoonmaker's complex editing which explores and reveals the complexity of the story and giving them a beautiful, almost musical rhythm. According to Mr. Scorsese, the climatic Sand-Mandhala montage sequence that cross-cut the Dalai Lama's exile to India and a religious ceremony was her idea, and it brings the film up to an incredible spiritual level. Yet, Scorsese does not show Tibet as an idyllic and idealized society. By using the young Dalai Lama's point of view as a narrative strategy throughout the film, by showing almost everything through his eyes, the film also glimpses at the complexity of the Tibetan society and its own problems; "I didn't know monks has guns" "Is there a prison in Potala" says the 12 years old Dalai Lama.
Violence, or human pain to be more exact, is also present in this film. An amazing nightmare sequence shows the Dalai Lama in the midle of thousands of dead monks. A typical Scorsese image?
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Format: DVD
I'm really happy to see so many positive reviews for this movie. Martin Scorsese. Phillip Glass. The Dali Lama. How can you go wrong? I remember watching this the first time and liking it, but feeling that it lacked cohesion. It does take awhile for the Kundun to mature to an adult so we can identify with him and care about him.

But now I look at the film as being almost two separate parts. The first half shows us the Dali Lama as a child who must take on the role of Kundun and gives us a very slow (and beautiful) sense of environment and atmosphere. It also quietly sets up characters that will grow in importance as the film continues. The second "adult half" of the movie focuses on the Kundun having to deal with an aggressive communist China closing in on him and his people.

I feel like many people (including Ebert who said this is the only Scorsese movie he would not want to see again...) watch it once and say it was slow and they didn't care about the Dali Lama character enough. Well if you only watch it once you won't be able to see the detail (like the shot of the Kundun looking at Mao's shoes, or the baby Kundun separating the fighting beetles) , and depth that make up the fabric of this movie. There are all kinds of great shots and quick edits (the 3 seconds of violence in this film are more powerful then the lengthened violence in other films), and symbolism that you simply can't get your mind around the first time you watch this movie. Having said all of that, the cinematography alone would make this movie worth getting. And at $10, you make out like a bandit.
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Format: DVD
Having read the previous 49 reviews, what can I add? There are maybe three ways to review a film: on craft (how the film medium is used), on content (is this story worth telling?), and for a "true story" film, is it true? If you are a student of film (officially or not) and know something about Scorsese, you MUST see this film. Very, very few films since the invention of "talkies" have used the medium as brilliantly. Mathison's script, Glass' music, Deakins' cinematography, the incredible amateur acting: On the craft score, this is Scorsese's greatest work. The story of a young boy raised to be the spiritual - and forced to be the political - leader of his country may not attract everyone. There's nothing for it: that is the storyline of one of the greatest films ever made. As for "true stories," one reviewer compared Scorsese to David Lean, who made "Lawrence of Arabia." As a lifelong student of history and cinema, I can say that all "true stories" must compress events and characters, must make one incident or one dialog stand for many, and that all must be colored by the historical viewpoint of their tellers. Both David Lean and Martin Scorsese have clearly tried to capture their subjects sincerely and represent "truth" with all their skill and within the limits of their medium. Scorsese has let the Tibetans tell this story through him. Buddhists can usually be counted on for greater than average objectivity. From everything I have read and all I have talked to about Lawrence and about Tibet, Scorcese has done a far better job of representing history than Lean. If you have any interest in film or Tibet, see this in widescreen. It will almost certainly be the best film about the Dalai Lama ever to be made.
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