East meets West
By a customer
, 20 Sep 2004
Heinrich Harrer is a self centred man, he is also a national hero for his prowess as a mountaineer, and as such has travelled to the Himalayas to conquer one of its peaks, on behalf of Austria and its Nazi government. He is also running away from a loveless marriage and the fear of fatherhood, he is running away from himself more than anything. So begins Seven Years in Tibet.
As a member of the national expedition we see Harrer (Brad Pitt) for what he really is, an arrogant loner filled with dreams of self glory rather than the team work needed to conquer the mountain. The expedition fails and to make matters worse, on their return to the foothills of India they find themself under arrest. War has broken out in Europe and they are german nationals on empire soil. After spending most of the war in a British prison camp, Harrer and his fellow team mate, Peter (David Trewlis) manage to escape into the mountains. After years of wandering and narrow scrapes they manage to cross the border into Tibet and this is where the film really gets going. Up until now the film has played like a boys own adventure story, but now it really comes in to its own.
After entering the secretive capital, Lhasa, the two are taken under the wing of a government official and their fortunes take a turn for the better, as life becomes good for them in this strange place. Up untill now we have seen a gradual change in Harrer, the struggle for survival in the mountains have given him a new outlook on life, but thats nothing compared with the turn that it is about to take.
As a celebrity in the city, he is summoned before the boy Dalai Lama, who is fascinated by the western world and wants to learn first hand. As Harrer teaches the boy Lama in the ways of his world, he is subjected to the simple philosophies of Bhuddism and a transformation begins. Eventually being subjected to the ways of Tibet changes the character of Harrer, gone is the self orientated glory seeker to be replaced by an altogether better person. The relationship between the boy Lama and Harrer is played with just the right mix of humour and wisdom, and you see the realities of a boy held to be a reincarnation of the Bhudda trying to balance a normal childhood with the spiritual duties to his country.
Without giving to much away, the film follows the turbulant events of the Chinese Invasion and the affect it has on everyone involved, and the politics behind the throne. Eventually Harrer returns to his own world a changed man and able to deal with the spectres that he ran away from all those years before.
This would seem like a bit of a far fetched story, if it wasnt for the fact that its actually true. The film is based on Harrers autobiography and apparently the Lama and Heinrich Harrer remained good friends ever after.
Brad Pitt would not be the obvious choice for such a role, but he plays the part with excellance, all stages of the gradual transformation are dealt with with finess. Trewlis is a good foil for Pitt as the figure of human conscience who eventually truely becomes his friend. The scenary is breathtaking, and coupled with the medieval nature of Tibet at the time, sometimes seems like a fantasy, an image that comes crashing down to earth with the arrival of the modern well equiped Chinese army.
Basically the film changes its nature at the same time as its main character, becoming more thought provoking as it moves on. A film about inner change as well as national upheaval, his film plays on many levels and records a little known piece of history as seen from one mans eyes
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