Tuesday, July 1, 2008

7 Years in Tibet

Not gonna lie to you... 7 Years in Tibet starts out as a bit of a mess. You have to stick with it for about 40 mins before you start getting to the good stuff. This time coincides with the mess in Heinrich Harrer's (Brad Pitt) own life. Heinrich leaves his pregnant wife at the train station after a fight to head off to climb a mountain in the Himalayas. The time period is just around the point that Britain was pulled into WWII. Harrer and expedition lead Peter Aufschnaiter (David Thewlis) are captured by the British (Since they are German citizens) and placed in a prison camp.

Many escapes later... the two find themselves trying to seek passage into Tibet. Eventually they make their way to the capital city where they catch the eye of a government official (B.D. Wong from OZ) and the young Dalai Lama. Soon the Dalai Lama becomes fascinated with Heinrich and they become friends. Certainly this is to echo the fact that the child that Heinrich created seems to want no part of Heinrich in his life. Waiting out the war in Tibet allows our lead character to find who he really is and wants to be. Later on you get the rumbling of China into Tibet and the backstabbing that takes place... but this movie is at it's heart a tale of a man lost in the world.

Director Jean-Jacques Annaud (Enemy at the Gates, In the Name of the Rose) has done his best in cramming a story of about 10 years into the 140 min of run time. You feel a race at the start of the film to get to Harrer's time in Tibet. The story wants to be a bit more than that and that is a well intentioned goal. Annaud always gives his films a distinct look too... here you get Tibet as mostly a dirty, ugly place with the only glimpses of beauty being the people of the land. All of the actors are quite suited for their roles.

Not everything works here with the storyline. An effort was obviously made to keep this film under 3 hours. This causes the viewer to only focus on this period of time. This leaves you with the disctinct feeling that the most fascinating things might have been what Harrer did with the rest of his life... and not those 7 years in Tibet.


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