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Overall Rating

Awesome: 9.68%
Worth A Look: 12.9%
Pretty Bad: 22.58%
Total Crap: 25.81%

2 reviews, 19 user ratings

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Seven Years in Tibet
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Brad Pitt posing a lot."
1 stars

'Seven Years in Tibet' was the first of two films in 1997 to deal with the Dalai Lama. The other was Martin Scorsese's 'Kundun'; it has no American actors, much less Brad Pitt, so it was a tough sell. Now that both are on video, though, I recommend renting 'Kundun.'

Seven Years in Tibet adheres to Hollywood's Rule of Racist Indifference: The mass white audience won't care about the life of a great man who doesn't happen to be white, unless he's the supporting character in a movie about an unimportant white guy. Thus, Seven Years in Tibet gives us the ber-blond, blue-eyed Brad Pitt as mountain climber Heinrich Harrer, who is Austrian and also a former Nazi. Harrer, of course, is redeemed through his exposure to the young Dalai Lama -- it's Schindler's List meets Little Buddha.

The film is certainly handsome. The director, Jean-Jacques Annaud, also made Quest for Fire and The Bear, which relied heavily on nature's watercolors and had almost no human dialogue. But Annaud's pictorial style is impressive without being expressive. Any shot from the movie would look ravishing out of context, but there's nothing under the images -- not even any storytelling pizzazz la Spielberg. The rhythm is smooth and deadening. It's all "Look at this; look at this; ooh, look at this." It's a slide show of Tibet (actually, it's Argentina and the Andes).

Those who giggled at Pitt's allegedly Irish lilt in The Devil's Own ("Ay naid tha' mooney, Tum") should know that he has better luck with his Austrian accent as Harrer -- though he becomes noticeably less Teutonic once he starts bonding with the Dalai Lama. Cold and selfish, Harrer deserts his pregnant wife to go climb the Nanga Parbat for the greater glory of Germany -- and himself. Fully the first half of the film follows Harrer and his expedition leader Peter Aufschnaiter (David Thewlis, much more amiable here than usual) as they are captured by the British and locked up in a POW camp, which they escape by fleeing to Tibet. It's there that Harrer meets the 14-year-old Dalai Lama (Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk).

It's also there that the movie becomes ripe for parody. After more than an hour of solemn preparation, we get ... Brad Pitt showing a kid how to drive a car and work a radio. Wow. When the Dalai Lama isn't asking eager questions, he's spouting wisdom like a Buddhist Pez dispenser. Dumbed down for the mass audience, the teachings sound like Yoda, or worse. "If you are worried about something, change it," he says, "and if you can't change it, why worry about it?" In other words: Don't worry, be happy. Whoa, this little dude is heavy, man.

In Seven Years in Tibet, the Dalai Lama comes off as a benevolent alien -- E.T. in Coke-bottle glasses -- and Harrer learns to love the son he abandoned. (What is he, a Promise Keeper?) The last act is rushed and murky, sprinting through the Chinese occupation of Tibet -- which plays not as a climax but as an afterthought -- and winding up, finally, with Harrer and his teenage son planting the Tibetan flag on a mountaintop.

One large leap for a white man, one very tiny step for the people of Tibet.

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originally posted: 01/14/07 12:41:33
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User Comments

9/25/10 millersxing insipid storytelling sabotages the film's emotional impact 3 stars
8/26/05 ES Blah, blah blah blah blah blah, oooo good movie Brad 1 stars
8/01/04 Kathryn Knowlton more live 7 years in the movie, thankfully Brad Pit is at least hot 2 stars
11/20/03 thorp great 5 stars
4/20/03 Dave Okay film, but do yourself a favour and go and watch Kundun instead 3 stars
9/03/01 Butterbean I saw this on an airplane. It keeps you entertained. 3 stars
8/31/01 Hooker with a Penis I lived this movie, great scenes and it was a very subtle story, wonderful movie... 5 stars
2/06/01 R.W. Welch Ho-hummer of a movie, little dramatic tension. 3 stars
9/13/00 Boy In The Designer Bubble Just once I'd like to see a person of color be the enlightened one. 4 stars
7/12/00 Terrie Smith Pretty good film; great cinematography. Young actor Wangchuk outshines Pitt. 4 stars
5/25/00 Elvisfan A throwback to old Hollywood epics that I completely bought into 4 stars
9/16/99 strike Brad was terrible in this one. A new low in Tibetmania!! 1 stars
9/05/99 Ron Millar I don't know for the others but for me it's a cool movie. 4 stars
4/19/99 jimmy jam This movie was awsum!!! Buddhists RULE 5 stars
4/16/99 Daria This movie was like a blank pretty postcard. 3 stars
2/18/99 Bishop Visually stunning. Ends stronger than any film I've seen. Can't make up for bad 1st half. 3 stars
9/19/98 Jonny Be BAD I just didn't see the reformation of pitt's character.Too fast,too sudden,too unbelievable 3 stars
8/29/98 Mister Whoopee Not a Pitt fan. Not after this. 3 stars
8/23/98 Superfly If you like Pitt, see 12 Monkeys or Legends of the Fall instead, hell even Kalifornia 3 stars
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  08-Oct-1997 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Jean-Jacques Annaud

Written by
  Heinrich Harrer
  Becky Johnston

  Brad Pitt
  David Thewlis
  B.D. Wong
  Danny Denzongpa
  Jetsun Pema

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