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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
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The incredible picture and sound made my wife and me estatic with our purchase even though its price was higher than we are accustomed to paying. There are multiple storylines which make this film appeal to those with an interest in history, spirituality,
geography, politics and the essence of humanity. An unforgettable cinema experience to be repeated every year or two.
My eyes were entranced by the beauty of the film, its wonderful cinematography, costumes, rituals and pageants. The uniqueness of the Tibetan Buddhist culture and the impact on architecture, furniture, costume, and social hierarchy was highly entertaining and interesting. The music of Phillip Glass was a wonderful compliment to the cinematography.
However the film was more than a sequential story of the period in the life of the 14th Dalai Lama between the times he was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama in 1937 to the time he crosses the mountains into India seeking political asylum. The film is about the careful cat and mouse game between the Communist Chinese invaders into Tibet and the range of options left to the Dalai Lama. If he remains in Tibet under communist rule, he could become the puppet of the communists, even if he selects to isolate and circumscribe his domain as purely spiritual. If he remains in Tibet he would be the focus of insurgency by faithful Tibetans, particularly the Buddhist monks, which would set the stage for complete annihilation of the priesthood of the Tibetan Buddhist. The longer he stays in Tibet, the more endorsement it appears he lends to the Communist invasion. Yet, his ties to the people is of such great strength, that to leave Tibet would signal a major victory for the communist Chinese. However, to leave Tibet also has its consequences, some of which are mentioned above. Eventually the Dalai Lama does leave Tibet, a very sad but necessary move to retain the integrity of Tibetan Buddhism in the face of overwhelming forces. Why was this sad decision the right decision? Because a non-violent philosophy would indicate that in the face of great evil, one must run away until the great evil passes by. Scorsese recognizes that the timing and decision to leave Tibet is the crux of the film and he builds the tension and action of the film around this. If you are the reincarnation of Buddha, Kundun, then communism is a passing season, a winter storm from which you must seek shelter. If you are the Buddha, then one day Spring will come and you will return.
Martin Scorcese, filming in Morocco, has made a devotional work, an authentic-looking piece with a brilliant depiction of the colorful vestments and garments worn by the monks, a sense of place in Lhasa, the capital, and the recreation of the pageantry, the rituals and rites practiced in Lamaism. One scene shows the funeral ceremony of a dead body left outside to be picked over by vultures as in the Parsi religion.
The film shows the boy struggling to learn his duties and later coming to grips with the toughest decisions he has to make when Tibet is brutally taken over by China. Forced to flee to India in 1959 at age twenty-four, we leave him wistfully looking over the mountains to his lost country.
He is presented as a quiet, humble, meditative pacifist. He knows in his meeting with Mao that China, which has forsaken religion, will never let Tibet be free. The Dalai Lama represents unconditional love. He is the compassionate Buddha, a monk and a head of state who has to be Kundun, the Presence.
The movie is inspiring, a learning experience done with all the wizardry a gifted director can muster. I was deeply involved in the movie because it presented the life of the Dalai Lama in a compelling way. You need not be a believer to become a captive while viewing this movie.