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The Green Life: Movie Review Friday: Seven Years in Tibet

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June 05, 2009

Movie Review Friday: Seven Years in Tibet

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week we review a film with an environmental theme that’s currently in theaters or available on DVD. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a short review and look for it in the next Movie Review Friday.

Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
Available on DVD

In this true story, Brad Pitt plays the late Heinrich Harrer, a Nazi alpinist who, after his WWII-era extreme mountain climbs in the Himalayas, and escape from a British POW camp, finds himself in Tibet. There, he’s surrounded by Buddhists, whom he’s skeptical of at first.

But when he befriends the child identified as the fourteenth Dalai Lama, he starts to understand the Tibetan people’s rejection of egoism and violence, their constant striving toward spiritual purity, and the harmonious ways in which they interact with nature. Estranged from his own son, Harrer begins to feel a fatherly love for the young spiritual leader.

One particularly poignant scene unfolds when Harrer commissions a movie theater for Kundun. During the construction process, Harrer treats a worm like, well, a worm. The child reacts: “Never, never harm anything that lives.” Harrer laughingly expresses disbelief at being able to save all the worms, but the next scene shows the workers picking worms out of their sites and reverently carrying them to safety.

Though some may find the film saccharine (the harshest critics called it “seven years in a theater”), it wields a disarming genuineness that makes it difficult to scoff at. Scenes of incursions by the militaristic Chinese add tension, without which the story might flail. And the cinematography, much of which depicts majestic mountain scenery, is nearly flawless.

--Avital Binshtock

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