Monday, April 9, 2012

SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET


There is a scene in the movie where a small boy we all now know as the 14th Dalai Lama asks his close friend and tutor Hienrich Harrer: “Do you think some day people will look at Tibet on the movie screen and wonder what happened to us!” It was a moment of truth that evoked a deep pain in my heart. The inescapable truth that a civilization is slowly being wiped out of the face of the earth slowly dawned on me. I generally don’t think of writing about something until it disturbs me enough and I felt that this masterpiece which projects humanity through the lives of two very distinct individuals deserves to be celebrated.

Make no mistake. This movie is not about Dalai Lama or the Tibetan race. The movie is about Hienrich Harrer, an arrogant, cocky, self-absorbed Third Reich Poster boy and a star Austrian mountain climber who sets out to conquer the Nanga Parbat, the unclimbed mountain in the Himalayas and leaves behind a very pregnant wife in a selfish quest of singular glory. This movie is about his transformation from being a self centered egoist to a human being with genuine love and compassion and the enlightenment of simplicity.

Hienrich Harrer is a loner by choice, superiority is his only code as he fails to coexist in the expedition which is ended by bad weather and further marred by the World War as the climbers are taken as prisoners in British India. He slowly sheds his outer layer of stoic arrogance as the memory of his now new born son keeps haunting him. We see the first glimpse of his ego’s downfall in jail when he receives divorce papers from his wife. There is a terrifying scene in which Harrer repeatedly throws himself onto the barb-wired fence as a self-inflicted punishment for his self-inflicted agony.  

Harrer eventually manages to escape prison along with the captain of the expedition Peter Aufschnitter and a riveting tale of their friendship ensues. Together they wander endlessly across the towering mountains for years, seeking refuge and finding none, fleeing bandits, eating their own horses, trading their costly accessories for handful of food, inhaling the springs, battling death like cold in winter and finally landing in Lhasa with the help of a first aid instruction paper disguised as some special entry permit. The kingdom that is closed to foreigners welcomes them with outstretched hands and scripts the most wonderful chapter of their lives.

The seven years in Tibet is not just for Hienrich and Peter but we too live and breathe Tibet along with them and immerse ourselves in their wonderful tradition and culture. The roof of the world, Tibet, is most intriguing and at the same time most isolated. Its civilization, though medieval in nature, is one with a golden heart and unlike any other. A civilization that doesn’t stand a chance against any other in terms of prosperity, wealth or sophistication but has more peace, compassion and simplicity than the entire world put together.

The old lady who takes care of Harrer, the workers who refuse to work on a land fearing that they will hurt the worms in the soil, the minister who asks nonchalantly if one needs a reason for a good deed when questioned on his reason for giving refuge to these two foreigners and the young Dalai Lama who shows wisdom and character way beyond his age when he stands up to the Chinese Generals, refuses to leave his people behind and persuades Harrer to go back to his son, are all representatives of this spectacularly unique race. And when the Chinese invade Tibet, we are witness to the heart wrenching spectacle of a peace loving country vainly attempting to create a military of about a 1000 men to battle millions of Chinese troops. It pricks your heart to see a Tibetan soldier firing an arrow at a Chinese who shoots him with a machine gun. It is indeed a culture like no other and its loss is not just a loss for humanity but a loss of humanity.

There are some refreshingly funny scenes too as the two guys come alive at the first sight of a woman after spending years of dry and dead life. The scene where they sheepishly cringe when she measures them up for stitching their suits, their game of one-upmanship to impress her, Harrer’s ingenious idea of ripping his coat pocket to find an excuse to visit her again only to see Peter already there getting his pant mended and the ice skating lessons where Hienrich realizes that Peter is her man will all make you smile with abandon.

But at the same time you will always feel a strange undercurrent that reminds us of the uniqueness of the Tibetan civilization. The scene where Hienrich shows off to the seamstress describing in detail every glory that he has achieved is my second favorite one just for sheer genius and profundity of her response. “This is the difference between our civilizations. You admire the man who pushes his way to the top in any walk of life while we admire the man who abandons his ego!”

The scenes between Hienrich Harrer and little Dalai Lama are simply mesmerizing and define the new Hienrich Harrer. The intimate and playful relationship they share slowly grows into a love that is soulful, spiritual and filial. The scene where Harrer tells him about the absolute simplicity in climbing mountains which fills him with the deep powerful presence of life is as brilliant as the final one when little Dalai Lama tells Harrer that he was much too informal to be his father and asks him to go back to his son. Harrer, who left a son to conquer the Himalayas, conquers himself with the help of a son in Tibet who he finally leaves to go back to the son he left. This brilliant movie showcases the remarkable transformation of Hienrich Harrer and gives us a glimpse of an extraordinary civilization and its greatest spiritual leader through Harrer’s eyes.

61 comments:

  1. A very well written review and the movie seems very interesting. ! I think it would be worth seeing just to get a glimpse of the civilization called Tibet and the metamorphosis of Harrer as a person!

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    1. Thank you so much Ruchira. :) yep.. as you pointed out very well, those are 2 wonderful reasons to watch this movie.

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  2. This movie was such a masterpiece. I must have watched it some seven times but each time it conveys to me a new message, a new meaning. Such a profound portrayal of emotions and circumstances. And hats off to you, its by far one of the best reviews for the film that I have come across. The expression was brilliant!

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    1. wow.. you have watched it 7 times. That is symbolic. :) Very true. It has such a treasure of meanings and thoughts that you get a new perspective every time you watch it. :) And thank you very much for the compliment. Am glad you liked the article.

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  3. I have watched this one several times as well and Brat Pitt is great as Harrer. Though one has seen the movie,a review like this one brings in fresher perspectives to it. Loved the line 'It is indeed a culture like no other and its loss is not just a loss for humanity but a loss of humanity.

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    1. Thank you so much for the wonderful compliment Zephyr. :) Am so glad you found the review refreshing and insightful. That means a lot. :)

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  4. Wait! you are entering the realms where tongue has no function! That is what your piece seems to have established at the outset. So the thoughts run from soul to soul in a language doomed to die a barbaric death lurking in the form of the over-arching Chinese ambition. That the stony pride of the protagonist melts under the serenic Tibetan humanity should come as no surprise to anyone. The loss of Tibet from the face of Earth can be best put into words only in your manner: it is a loss of humanity.

    Your review read like a dream.

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    1. That is simply a stunning comment. I marvel at the amazing depth in your writing. You summarized my article beautifully. Thank you so much for this remarkable comment. :)

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  5. It is indeed a great movie and the way you dissected it is remarkable. Normally, we enjoy good cinema but we fail to understand the life which is hidden in many frames. You brought that picture to us.

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    1. Thank you so much Saru for such a wonderful comment. :) You said it there perfectly.. I started watching the movie just as another Saturday night movie but then immediately I realized that this was much more than a movie. :)

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  6. Haven't seen this movie. I'll surely check it out :)

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    1. You should if you get a chance. :) You won't be disappointed.

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  7. Yes, this movie is one of the Classics. I have watched it several times. A great review of a great movie. Thanks!

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    1. A very warm welcome to you Kusum. :) Yeah.. this indeed is a classic. And thank you very much for the compliment. Am so glad you liked it.

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    1. A very warm welcome to you Sowmya. Thank you so much. Am glad you liked the post. :)

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  9. Great Review Raj.. Definitely will watch it out.:)

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    1. Thank you so much Sonia. :) Am so glad you liked it. And yeah.. do check out the movie. You will like it. :)

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  10. the best victory is not the one achieved against the world but the one against one's ego.

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    1. A very warm welcome to you here Arooj. That was brilliantly said. :) So true. Thanks for the wonderful comment.

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  11. "its loss is not just a loss for humanity but a loss of humanity." - So beautifully penned Raj. I definitely would wanted to watch this movie now not only because of what you have written but also because of the way you have expressed them. Too good. :)

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    1. Thank you so much Akshay for that lovely comment. I am soo happy to hear that my post has incited an interest in you to watch the movie. That does mean a lot. :)

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  12. this is the best movie review I've ever read... there's no doubt m going to watch this movie asap...
    and from now on add one more in your fans list :)

    simply awesome !!

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    1. A very warm welcome to you Jyoti. Thank you for such a wonderful comment. That you want to watch the movie after reading the post just made my day. :)

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  13. One of the best reviews I have read. Very moving. Frankly, Tibet and its tragedy is very poignant. I will try to catch hold of this movie.

    http://rachnaparmar.com

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    1. Thank you so much Rachna for the wonderful compliment. :) I agree. Tibet and its story moves us beyond description. Do watch it if you get a chance. It is brilliant.

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  14. Very well written, many years ago I watched the movie till midway...now I want to sit through all of it, thanks to you :-)

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    1. Thank you so much Suchi. :) That you want to complete watching the movie after reading my post is the biggest compliment I can get. :)

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    1. Warm welcome to you here Rohit. And thank you very much. Glad you liked it.

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  16. liked the way you presented the movie to us - makes us want to watch it.

    interesting that you didn't mention Brad Pitt at all :)) couldn't help but notice that esp with the poster there

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    1. Thank you so much Sujatha for the lovely compliment. :)

      I was waiting for somebody to mention Brad Pitt. :) I had thought of putting in a P.S (Just so you know,if you are still debating on watching the movie, there is Brad Pitt.) But then decided against it in the last minute. ;)

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  17. wow!! is this a movie review or recreation of the story altogether? exceptional writing Raj and that's something which is guaranteed here :).

    on a lighter note, wanted to read this before u submit on indivine :D.

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    1. Thank you so much Deb for that wonderful wonderful comment. You made my day as usual. :)

      he he.. You reading it before I put it on Indivine was the icing on the cake. :)

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  18. Its tough for someone to judge a film which is based on a book when one has read the book before. I had read the book before and it was only later when I watched the film. As it happens most of the times, I found the book more detailed and livid in its descriptions and the transformation of the Harrer which you mentioned in the post is more visual and arresting for the reader. But, I can't help but admire at the beauty of the this post. This is not a movie review. Movie review is what I read on indiatimes and bollywood Hungama which is pure crap almost all the time. This is much deeper. Though, I think Brad Pitt was not the perfect choice for the role..may be Peter (I think he is Professor Lupin in the Harry Potter Series) was more suited for the Harrer's Role. Neverthless, a film which will stay with you forever once you have watched it. May be because of the message which it gives us.

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    1. Kunal.. I can totally imagine that the book would have been much better than the movie. :) You are right.. I don't write movie reviews as such. I only write about a movie if I am affected by it. You may be right.. Peter might have been better as Harrer. Pitt lent a bit of himself to Harrer. But yeah.. totally agree with you.. the movie will stay in our hearts mainly because of what it stands for.

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  19. a lovely review , ihad seen this movie decade ago, and had bought the dvd to it .. loved the movie so much...

    After reading this review I am going ot go home tonight and see itall over again .. THank you

    Bikram's

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    1. Thank you so much Bikram. :) If my post makes you want to watch the movie again, then there can be no better compliment. :)

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  20. Hi

    That was a great review....I am yet to watch the movie though!

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    1. Thank you so much Jaish. :) Do watch it if you get a chance. :)

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  21. "The seven years in Tibet is not just for Hienrich and Peter but we too live and breathe Tibet along with them and immerse ourselves in their wonderful tradition and culture."--I often find that directors may anchor their stories to specific geographies and histories but in a sense they tell stories of humanity--folding and unfolding, of hearts untied and becoming--even in the crudest of movies there is an urge to reach out. But in some movies where the consciousness of the director is powerfully present in this underlying story--the movie becomes a powerful vehicle for that journey.

    I had watched Seven Years in Tibet many years back--mostly for Brad Pitt:) Did not dwell on it as you have. You have awakened me to what I missed. Thank you. Will go back to the movie:)

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    1. Thank you so much Bhavana. That is a wonderful comment. You have traced the inner realms of the movie quite beautifully. It does tell an intriguing story of humanity and it feels like we are not just watching the journey. Thank you for such an insightful comment. :)

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  22. I have never before been particularly moved to comment on a review of a film. This one, however, demands a compliment. Beautifully written!

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    1. Thank you so much Suresh. That sure is a wonderful compliment. :)

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  23. Too good! I love the way you narrate..!

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    1. Thank you so much Gayathri for that lovely compliment. :)

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  24. http://freedomofexpression-rahul.blogspot.in/

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  25. This is a beautiful review. Makes the movie itself come alive!!!!

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    1. A very warm welcome to you Aakanksha. I am so glad you liked the post. :) Means a lot.

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  26. never been there to Tibett knows about its rich cultural heritage nice write up

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    1. Thank you so much Mohan. :) And a very warm welcome to you here.

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  27. Joined yours friend connect network nice blog pls reciprocate with mine thanks

    http://banadurga.blogspot.com/

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  28. I had read the book and liked it very much.
    Though I like Brad Pitt, I was not sure , the movie would be as good as the book! After your excellent write up, I am encouraged to finally watch the movie.

    Thanks.

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    1. Yeah.. I heard the book is really good. Havent read it. The movie might not be upto the book's standards, but it is good watch nevertheless. :) And thank you so much for the compliment. :) Means a lot.

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  29. thnks for sharing..goto see this movie :)
    http://campbuzzz.blogspot.in/#

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    1. Thank you so much Saikat. :) Yeah.. do watch the movie if you get a chance. :)

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  30. Great post. I like it. I think people should go through it. Thank you for sharing.

    ERP gujarat

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  31. Great review.It is like a recital and your version makes me want to see the movie once more.

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  32. Brilliant review and truly such a brilliant movie. I wouldn't mind watching again.Keem em coming..wanna read more. Just subscribed to ur site

    Btw do check out mysite and let me know your thoughts http://movieroundup.in/

    ReplyDelete

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