Movie Magazine International

Seven Years in Tibet

USA - 1997

Movie Review By Blue Velvet

"Seven Years in Tibet" is the first of three upcoming films that focuses on the Dalai Lama and Tibet's political struggles. Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, the film is based on Heinrich Harrer's autobiography which chronicles Harrer's stay in Tibet from 1944 to 1951. Harrer describes his fantastic adventures in Southwest Asia starting when he was a Himalayan mountain climber in 1939 to being close friends the Dalai Llama years later. Under Annaud's direction, much of the intriguing story is told through a series of anecdotes which when pieced together into an epic causes the film to lose its dramatic momentum.

Brad Pitt stars as Heinrich Harrer, a proud famous Austrian Mountain Climber. In 1939 at the brink of World War II, Heinrich bids farewell to his pregnant wife, knowing full well that he'll be climbing mountains in Nepal while his son is born. As part of a team of climbers led by Peter Aufschnaiter played by David Thewlis, Harrer hopes to conquer the Himalayan peak, Nanga Parbat. Unfortunately, an avalanche prompts Peter to call the expedition off. Heinrich defiantly treks off alone but is caught by the Allies and placed in a POW camp in India. It's there Heinrich meets up with the climbing group he left. Independent to the core, Heinrich ditches the group once they help him escape. Miraculously he and Peter meet up later and manage to cross the forbidden borders of Tibet and into Lhasa, the home of the Dalai Lama. Heinrich learns about Tibetan culture and attracts the attention of the young Dalai Lama. The two befriend each other and Heinrich takes on the task of instructing the Dalai Lama about the world outside Lhasa. Heinrich learns patience and exercises a quasi-fatherhood despite the fact that he's never seen his son and perhaps never will. After his coronation, the Dalai Lama urges Heinrich to return to Austria since Tibet had become dangerous after the 1949 Chinese invasion.

It's not until the last 20 minutes does the film unleash its emotionally rich potential. Annaud finally takes advantage of the exotic setting, the blockbuster cast, and the captivating story all which were at this fingertips from the beginning. "Seven Years in Tibet" is a lovely and certainly an informative film and its sober ending leaves audiences on a memorable note.

© 1997 Blue Velvet Air Date: 10/08/97

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