Seven Years in Tibet Reviews
Great Film! The film has a great amount of interesting facts, and takes place in the 1930's through '50's. There are times when it is; magical, spiritual, enlightening, sweet, sad and poignant.Overall, an unusual film, very involving and emotional without sentimentality, with wonderful music and outstanding cinematography. Highly recommended.
After the death of 11 climbers, Austrian Heinrich Harrer (Brad Pitt) decides to add glory to his country and to the German pride by climbing Nanga Parbat in British India, and leaves his expectant wife behind. Egoist and a loner, he does not get along with others on his team - but must bend to their wishes after bad weather threatens them. Then WWII breaks out, they are arrested and lodged in Dehra Dun's P.O.W. Camp. He attempts to break out in vain several times, but finally does succeed along with Peter Aufschnaiter (David Thewlis), and end up in the holy city of Lhasa - a place banned to foreigners. They are provided food and shelter, and Peter ends up marrying a tailor, Pema Lhaki, while Heinrich befriends the Dalai Lama. He meets regularly to satiate the child's curiosity about the world, including Jack the Ripper and 'yellow hair'; in return he is exposed to teachings of Lord Buddha and even constructs a movie theater, while getting news of the end of the war; his divorce; and his son's refusal to communicate. But nothing will prepare him for the devastation about to descend when Communist China decides to attack, leading to the deaths of over 1 million Tibetans, destruction of over 6000 monasteries, and betrayal from their very own people.
Accent wise, not a great performance from Pitt, but the experience and story of the film are more important.
No matter how interesting, this subject matter can hardly be easily crafted into a unique film, and it doesn't help that Becky Johnston's script has its own tropes, in dialogue, set pieces and characterization, until becoming nothing if not rather formulaic. This conventionalism reflects a certain laziness to storytelling, found in other aspects of Johnston's script, which, despite its many clever elements, has thin spells to characterization that limit a sense of layering to the characters who drive this dramatic epic which is, to a certain extent, pretty thematically reliant on the evolutions of its characters. Moments of uncertainty to generally thoughtful developmental depths certainly shake a sense of momentum to this layered drama, though not quite as directly as the slow spells, whose sense of pacing is retarded enough in Jean-Jacques Annaud's bland directorial dry spells, and really crippled by excessive filler in Johnston's draggy script. The film initially keeps a pretty solid clip, and at certain points in its body, it really picks up momentum, but there are still so many moments of sheer aimlessness to the dragging of filler that, upon meeting limp spells in directorial storytelling, thin plotting's focus, no matter how hard it tries to branch out. In a moment, I will go more into the richness of this film's substance, at least in concept, but right away I must highly praise the potential of this layered epic, as well as the film's bravery to explore such subject matter in a well-rounded, if slightly excessive fashion, and yet, I can't help but question the structure of the final product, which gets to be so ambitious in its extensive exploration of material that it gradually grows unable to keep up with all that comfortably, incorporating certain important aspects too late for comfort, and dismissing others too suddenly, while jarring along many of the other beats in this path. In the end, as tight as this film's length of just shy of 140 minutes seems to be, pacing is ultimately about as big an issues as anything in this film, and make no mistake, it is an immense problem, bloating plotting with aimless filler and uneven material, and along a formulaic and sometimes thin path no less, until the final product comes dangerously close to falling into underwhelmingness. Lazy and ambitious attributes go a long way in shaking a film that, quite frankly, could have truly stood out, but by no means do they succeed in shaking thorough compellingness, complimented by a sweep that is itself complimented by considerable production value.
An adventure drama which takes audiences from Central Europe to the titular Tibet, this film relies pretty heavily on a sense of scale, and Claude Paré delivers on just that, with art direction that orchestrates Hoang Thanh At's production designs and Leo Baumgartner's, Caito Martins' and Robin Mounsey's location management in a grand, lavish fashion that is not only lovely, but immersive. Seeing as many distinguished settings go backed by immersion value, the art direction strongly reinforces a sense of adventure and scope, which, of course, goes established within a directorial performance by Jean-Jacques Annaud that, despite its near-bland dry spells, stays realized enough in its steadiness to prevent a sense of rushing through extensive material and limit an already pretty prominent sense of dragging, while utilizing a combination of quiet thoughtfulness and John Williams' solid, grand score to breathe well-balanced soul into this drama, resulting in some fine highlights. Were Annaud a little more inspired in his direction, and were Becky Johnston a whole lot more inspired in her script, Annaud could have perhaps driven the film to an outstanding point, because his efforts rarely get too carried away with dramatic meat, and when they are really realized, they provide glimpses of a tighter and more engrossing drama within this still pretty grand and compelling epic. Of course, those glimpses, in addition to the engagement value that is already pretty firmly established, just couldn't be if this film's subject matter wasn't so worthy, juggling themes of a man's adventure to revelation, and a nation's peaceful ways' going challenged by warfare that are interpreted too ambitiously to keep consistent in much more than familiarity, but hold a potential so great that a solid degree of immediate intrigue stands difficult to shake. Johnston's screenplay seems to try at times, what with its couple of thin spots and considerable deal of overblown spots, and yet, at other times, it too is realized, with dialogue pieces that are clever enough, and set pieces that are subtly colorful enough, to provide some adequately entertaining material, in addition to characterization highlights to bond you with the many memorable figures portrayed in this historical opus, who go brought to life by decent performances. The cast is sizable, and the more it expands with talents, the more impressive it becomes, flaunting solid supporting performances by David Thewlis, B.D. Wong and Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk, and a worthy lead one by Brad Pitt, who plays himself, only with an admittedly improvable Austrian accent that is either overdone or thin, if not abandoned, but compensates with layered charisma and dramatic depth which capture a sense of evolution as Heinrich Harrer undergoes a long, personal journey. There are plenty of strong aspects throughout the film, and I really do wish that there weren't so many shortcomings, which prevent the final product from, not simply enthralling, but standing out as excellent, but cannot overshadow the strengths which stand firm enough to make a compelling, perhaps even underappreciated epic.
Overall, conventions, thin spells to characterization, bland spells to the atmosphere, aimless spells to filler, and considerable focal unevenness hold a very promising epic back pretty considerably, but not so far back that thoroughly worthy subject matter isn't done enough justice by anything from sweeping art direction to decent writing, inspired direction and solid acting to drive Jean-Jacques Annaud's "Seven Years in Tibet" as a rewarding account of Heinrich Harrer's life-changing adventures in a peaceful culture that comes to undergo change in the midst of conflict.
3/5 - Good
Maybe it's the breathtaking Tibetan landscapes or the delightful portrayal of Tibet and its people and culture but I found this movie very appealing indeed and the ending is particularly touching when he is finally reunited with his son and takes him mountain climbing.