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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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It is said and it is accurately spoken: the Tibetans are much like the Native Americans were when the pilgrims landed. You may disagree with the customs of an indigenous people, but truly it is not just of another culture to trespass, kill the people, pervert their culture, steal what is precious to them, destroy their homeland in the name of communism or christianity or convenience. It is astonishing that America did not care and still seems unwilling to become involved. If there was an exploitable resource like oil in Tibet, you know America would have been sending in troops to defend the Tibetans decades ago. And in so doing, less people may have died but the culture would still have been contaminated. In life, happy endings and wonderful results are more often the exception rather than the rule.
Kundun affirms the fact of reincarnation, shows that Buddhism is more about learning and work than it is about religion. One simply does not enter a designated building one day per week, talk to an unknowable someone separate from themselves in order to be absolved of all wrong-doings. In Tibet, each spiritual person takes responsibility for their actions and works to be kind and compassionate to all. Anger, greed and foolishness are to be understood, evolved beyond and avoided if at all possible. And it is truly up to each person to conduct their lives with a minimum of idiocy and quite lot of nobility and self-control. This can in no way be compared to the simplistic concept of "turning the other cheek" when slapped.
The film shows a far more intelligent funeral ceremony which would likely shock many Americans: we each take so much from the food chain and so it is proper that we are returned to the food chain. There is ceremony, but not of sadness. The funeral industry in our country is a high ticket farce. When I leave the body, the lights will be off and no one will be home. As long as I did not die of some horrific communicable disease, why shouldn't the carrion eaters enjoy a well-deserved meal? Why would I want to be under six feet of dirt in a sealed box or burned to ashes and put into a decorative jar?
To be Dalai Lama is not trivial, as this spirit will return again and again to lead the people. It is not as though there is a simple or straightforward way off the wheel. Ah, but an evolved spirit might choose not to return if it meant risk to the lives of the loyal people who remain.
It is not to turn one's back on wealth or position or privilege that is important, but the love of one's land and people and the safety of same that matters. Emotion *is* expressed in Kundun. And the visions of the Dalai Lama came to pass. The man represents hope and attaining a beauty of mind to which others aspire. He did not leave easily, happily or with a sense of relief. In Tibetan Buddhism, the country is the man and the man is the country and the creation of boundaries, of "us versus them" is a bizarre and flawed way of thinking. And so peaceful people must learn to defend themselves "against" a self-described enemy who uses the age-old lie of The Religious War to do what is simply this: grab land and whatever looks like a treasure for reasons of greed and acquisition.
Martin Scorcese created a very different masterpiece in Kundun. He told the truth to a world that has in great part been unwilling to listen. He demonstrated a deep understanding of how emotion is and is not expressed in Tibetan culture. I recommend this film as one that is both brilliant and loving, from a man whose character is deep, intensely diverse and fearless.
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