The story begins in 1937, with a group of Tibetan holy men on a quest for a very special child: the 14th Dalai Lama, the reincarnation of the Buddha, god of compassion. In a remote village near the Chinese border, they find him, an inquisitive two-and-a-half-year-old (Tenzin Yeshi Paichang) who correctly identifies artefacts from the previous Dalai Lama. The boy is brought with his family to the city of Lhasa, where his instruction begins under Ling Rinpoche (Tenzin Trinley). Unfortunately, it is a time of conflict between Tibet and China over Tibetan sovereignty, forcing the teenage Dalai Lama (Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong) to deal with difficult, delicate matters of state. Faced with impending Chinese aggression, the Dalai Lama must decide whether to stay with his people or flee into exile, to best protect his people.
Review by Louise Keller:
The chill of the snowy peaks generate goosebumps as the first sounds of Philip Glass' extraordinary score begins - first chants, then violin phrases, while colourful images explode on screen. How rare it is that the visuals and music erupt as one, glorious artistic accomplishment.
Kundun is a triumph for Martin Scorsese, whose inspired direction captures the very essence and complexities of the Tibetan culture, the ornate, rich colours and exotic textures. Authenticated by the effective participation of non-professional Tibetan actors, the players are mesmerizing. From the very beginning when we are introduced to the two year old Dalai Lama, we are captivated by huge, black, almond-eyes, rosebud mouth and a mop of unruly hair. His gentle, questioning nature unfolds as he grows older and develops an inner peace and serenity.
Scorsese canvasses the superstitions, rituals and customs of Tibet, in a feast of colours and visual imagery. And throughout, Glass's repetitious phrases and jolting intervals pound magnetically and compellingly, bold, delicate and confronting. Exquisite cinema, Kundun is a journey into the soul, a marvelous celebration of screen artistry, a satisfying sojourn into an exotic land and culture, where spirituality reigns supreme over political greed and aspiration.
This must be that spiritual oasis that James Hilton called Shangri-la in his book Lost Horizon. Beautifully shot in warm, glowing tones, Kundun is cinematic poetry - a mesmerising journey not to be forgotten.
The DVD offers a couple of featurettes, biographies and a theatrical trailer.
Published March 2, 2006
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KUNDUN: DVD (PG)
CAST: Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong, Gyurme Tethong, Tulku Jamyang, Kunga Tenzin, Tenzin Yeshi Paichang, Tencho Gyalpo, Tsewang Migyur Khangsar, Sonam Phunstok, Gyatso Lukhang, Robert Lin
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
RUNNING TIME: 134 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: Featurette The Fight For Kundun; Featurette Tibet Today; Biographies; Theatrical Trailer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
DVD RELEASE: March 2, 2006