As concerns the film itself, it opens rather dully, with a strangely ominous Tibetan drum track appearing almost too often, but eventually it wraps its loving arms around you and shares excellent cinematography, insights from afar, and wonderfully unfamiliar music (by Phillip Glass). The powerful way in which the music drives the film almost makes up for a plot - discovery of the Dalai Lama, his coming of age, confrontation with Mao and his exile in India - that's somewhat rote, and for wooden acting across the board (language barrier, perhaps?). In all, it's not Scorsese's best work, but to dismiss it is to overlook some of the aspects of his films that - as the Academy recognized, with Hugo - are among the best in the industry: costuming, music, sound, cinematography, makeup... all things you can't really be the best at without having the Best Director, but I digress. Kundun is unorthodox, but if you let it, it can carry you away.
I feel I have learned a few things from this film, but at the same time I found it a little boring - which was a little disappointing.
The film, directed by Scorsese, was made well and I'm sure resembled the facts as a true story, it just wasn't as insightful as I had hoped it would be.
The film's runtime of 134 is undeniably lengthy from a general standpoint, yet as far as an epic is concerned, and one that follows the complex life of the current Dalai Lama, that runtime doesn't sound as though it completely fits the bill, so I was expecting some rushing. What I got wasn't "some" rushing, but instead, "a lot" of rushing, with a frequent score and constant tone of an amalgamation of matter-of-fact and hurried making the already rather tossed-together story structure feel even quicker in progression. Now, the film hits its ever so welcomed slow-downs, yet rushing remains a glaringly prevalent flaw that tears at the steam of the film throughout it and damages its meditation upon the subject matter. However, with all of this rushing, the film still manages to fit in some excess material and repetition to intensify the sting of the spotty story structure and telling and further distance the resonance. The film's story is an incredibly worthy one, and one that rests in the hands of a very competent storyteller, yet he slips up in too many spots, not at all being helped by the equally spotty structure of the storyline, thus leaving the film to fall short on its potential, when it could have stood up there with the later-to-be-done "Gangs of New York", or "The Departed", or even "The Aviator" (Pretty much every movie he did with DiCaprio) is one of Scorsese's finest accomplishments. Still, with all of its steam-loss, amazingly, the film contains enough juice to kick on until the end. Yes, the film dissatisfies, to a degree, and were it lengthier, with more meditation upon its story, it would have really hit hard, yet as it stands, the film hits much more than it misses, with style being an aspect that never misses.
Roger Deakins does his thing as cinematographer by drenching the film in a subtle color-bounce that's not terribly upstanding, but still rather attractive, keeping the audience's eye locked in, especially when it hits a lighting point that truly does take your breath away. As for Philip Glass' score, it is overused to an extremely detrimental point, almost wearing you out of the resonance after a while, yet this negative affect would have really crushed the film, were it not for the fact that Glass' fantastic score is also a great strength of the film, boasting an engaging grace that's not just a joy to hear, but also supplements the film's elegant tone and really breathes life into this world, though not as thoroughly as the production designs, which are nothing short of incredible, being elaborate, detailed and dynamic, providing many nifty pieces of spectacle, as well as more compliments to the film's livliness and scope. Still, it's not just the designers of the looks and sounds of the film that really bring the world within it to life, but also Martin Scorsese, whose storytelling remains too flawed, mostly because the script also quite problematic, yet for all of the strikes to steam, the film never disengages, as Scorsese graces the film with consistent intrigue and scope that may actually drop lust-evoking glimpses of the greatness of a more comfortably structured epic, yet still help in keeping this film as rewarding as it is. The other carrier, or rather carriers of the film are our leads, because where all of the supporting cast members fill their parts comfortably, not some, but every portrayer of the Dalai Lama really knows what to do, with each child actor bursting with charisma, as well as awe and much vulnerable discomfort towards these greatest of responsibilites that have fallen upon such a young and potential soul. As the portrayers grow older, the defining charisma and humanity remains, while a sense of experience and ever-growing nobility and brilliance within our lead grows more and more intense, all in reflection of the growing conseqeunces and intrigue that the quickly maturing Dalai Lama, augmenting the film's gradually increasing weight. Each new lead works in comfortable conjunction with the last, with each young acting talent embodying the central character with the constant charisma, humanity and sense of maturing that defines the Dalai Lama, even to this day. This chain of young acting skill and chemistry may not drown out the messiness of the study progression, yet do help in giving the story a reasonably organic feel, standing as one of, if not the most key aspect to this film's standing as generally rewarding.
Overall, with all of its occasions of excess material and repetition, the core fault within the film is simply that it's just so blasted hurried, glossing over meditation within the worthy and lively subject matter and leaving it to frequently lose steam, when it could have truly stood as remarkable, were it looser, yet where the film could have fallen as simply underwhelming, its stellar style supplements the resonance and helps in making the film engaging, though not as sharply as Martin Scorsese's generally compelling direction or the cast of competent talents, headed by a long line of deeply compelling leads who embody the Dalai Lama with charisma and humanity, as well as a piercing and fascinating sense of gradual maturing that makes each lead a thoroughly strong one who helps in keeping the story flow as comfortable as it can be and ultimately making "Kundun" a generally rewarding and consistently compelling study on the complex and intriguing early years of our generation's Dalai Lama.
3/5 - Good
The Dalai Lama is a very important Buddhist monk in the country of Tibet and is seen as a very important religious leader all of the world. The film touches on quite a few Buddhist teachings. In the film you will see young Kundun being taught the basic teachings of Buddhism. For instance, young Kundun was being asked to recite the three jewels, which are the three things that Buddhists take refuge in, and look toward for guidance. "The daily observance of formally taking refuge in these "three jewels"-the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha-is regarded by many as being the closest thing to a Buddhist "creed" and is regarded as the definitive act that makes someone a "Buddhist. (Brodd, pg. 180)" The Dalai Lama is a very important religious leader in the sense that he represents ass Buddhists, their teachings, and their way of life, and is seen in such a way because the Dalai Lama is believed to be the Buddha of Compassion. In the opening of the film, you see colorful art, which turns out to be sand, which is known as a mandala. "While mandalas are used in Hinduism, where they also function as cosmological diagrams used for meditation, some Buddhists utilize them in unique ways. (Brodd, pg. 189)." Although the Dalai Lama is not in his hoe country of Tibet, he continues to represent the nation of Tibet and its people and the prime example of compassion.
Brodd, Jeffrey, Layne Little, Bradley Nystrom, Robert Platzner, Richard Shek, and Erin Stiles.
"Buddhism." Invitation to World Religions. New York, NY: Oxford UP, 2013. 143-209. Print.
As a teenager he is faced with the fact Chinese have invaded Tibet. The people are being killed and treated like animals. Kundun tries to make peace with some Chinese officers but it was in vain. Later in the movie he needed to flee or he would be killed. Because of the pressure, he chose to flee to India around 1959 and it is there he had dreams or visions of his people being killed under the Chinese rule.
The Young Dalai Lama is forced to either succumb to the rein of the Chinese and denounce their religion and culture or stand and fight which is a contradiction of the teachings and beliefs of the Buddha. Even if they fight, Tibet only had 5000 solders with primitive weapons, no match for the military power of China.
Kundun (literally meaning "presence".) is the most underrated movie ever directed by Martin Scorsese. Such a powerful film that the Chinese government has since banned Scorsese and crew from ever entering Tibet again. If you watch this movie the first thing you notice is how the cinematography and the images really make the movie. The second thing you will notice is the haunting score. Many scenes have sparse dialog and are really told by the sequence of shots. Scorsese directs shot after shot in a melodic pattern to guide the viewer though the story. You know what's going on even with little or no dialog. Every shot in the movie has a purpose and is executed artistic and masterfully.
An excellent account of the true story of the fourteenth Dalai Lama and the plight of Tibet to remain a free country. This was a time after WW2 where no one wanted to get involved and no other country or government came to the aid of Tibet even after countless pleas by the Dalai Lama himself.
No big name movie stars but powerful acting. The movie is a well woven story that really opens one's eyes to the plight of a different culture. At times it might be misunderstood and look to be "dated" but at further study you see that the way of the Tibetan people was one of true honor, complete dedication to ones beliefs and sacrifice of greed and personal successes in search of enlightenment for the betterment of an entire culture, not just person gain... Living each day practicing the belief that all life is important. It's a shame that this way of life might be one that is lost to us forever and vary rarely is taken seriously by most 21st century idealist.. It's also a breath of fresh air to witness a positive religious experiences compared to today's world of so many fanatical type religious factions that have undermined laws and peoples personal freedoms. Most people today witness countless "god fearing people" contradicting their own teachings.
Everywhere the child is convoyed he peers out and watches the spectators as though fascinated by commonplace people. He is taken to a palace that has animals like fish and deer and peacocks. He is given a movie projector and a radio where he keeps up with the news. Soon after he watches a horrific movie, he learns that China has invaded Tibet. These horrors force the Dalai Lama outside of his enclosed Buddhist world. He doesn't know what to do in this situation and how to continue practicing a life of nonviolence. He read a letter from the 13th Dalai Lama who forecasted that China would destroy religion in Tibet. He asks his advisor "What can I do. I am only a boy." His advisor replies back with "You are the man who wrote this letter. You must know what to do." At this point in the movie I was amazed at how much literal faith they put into reincarnation and that this child (now guesstimating around 14 or 15 years of age) was the one who wrote this letter and who had died just four years before this child was born.
Remaining devoted to the Buddhist ways of compassion and nonviolence, Kundun is caught in the middle of one of the most ferocious attacks with China's claim and control over Tibet, the young Dalai Lama appears to be constantly struggling with ideas and ways to avert the Chinese from taking over Tibet but in every effort and every protest, he fails. All of his protests are ignored and he is eventually forced to leave and go to India because his safety is at jeopardy.
Kundun grows up very protected and secluded. The monks raise him in the Buddhist belief and teach him the Four Noble Truths. He learns and lives compassion for all living beings. As he gets older he becomes more interested in the world and starts to follow world politics through newspapers. He is awe struck to find out that there is a prison in his country, and that there are monks that have guns. He demands to learn the truth about the political situation of his country. He tries to avoid conflict, but is forced into it. He is genuinely hurt by the news of his people being killed and forced to perform atrocities in the streets, and children forced to kill their parents. The film reminds me of how Gandhi was non-compliant, that is the same as the Dalai Lama was trying to achieve. He tells the Chinese that they can not liberate him only he can do that. This is in direct keeping of the Buddhist belief that suffering is real and that we are the ones to get ourselves out of suffering. Even when he was told by some of his council that action needed to be taken he refused. As he put it, " nonviolence takes time". He holds firm to the teachings of nonviolence. I found it interesting to learn that the Dalai Lama is not only the spiritual, but also the secular leader of his country. It seems that religion and politics have a hard time going hand in hand. I think it is one of those situations of all or none. If we could all strive to become nonviolent, regardless of a religious belief, our world might be better served.