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Seven Years in Tibet [VHS]
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Product Description

If it hadn't been for Brad Pitt signing on to play the lead role of obsessive Austrian mountain climber Heinrich Harrer, there's a good chance this lavish $70 million film would not have been made. It was one of two films from 1997 (the other being Martin Scorsese's exquisite Kundun) to view the turmoil between China and Tibet through the eyes of the young Dalai Lama. But with Pitt onboard, this adaptation of Harrer's acclaimed book focuses more on Harrer, a Nazi party member whose life was changed by his experiences in Tibet with the Dalai Lama. Having survived a treacherous climb on the challenging peak of Nanga Parbat and a stint in a British POW camp, Harrer and climbing guide Peter Aufschnaiter (nicely played by David Thewlis) arrive at the Tibetan city of Lhasa, where the 14-year-old Dalai Lama lives as ruler of Tibet. Their stay is longer than either could have expected (the "seven years" of the title), and their lives are forever transformed by their proximity to the Tibetan leader and the peaceful ways of the Buddhist people. China looms over the land as a constant invasive threat, but Seven Years in Tibet is more concerned with viewing Tibetan history through the eyes of a visitor. The film is filled with stunning images and delightful moments of discovery and soothing, lighthearted spirituality, and although he is somewhat miscast, Pitt brings the requisite integrity to his central role. What's missing here is a greater understanding of the young Dalai Lama and the culture of Tibet. Whereas Kundun tells its story purely from the Dalai Lama's point of view, Seven Years in Tibet is essentially an outsider's tale. The result is the feeling that only part of the story's been told here--or maybe just the wrong story. But Harrer's memoir is moving and heartfelt, and director Jean-Jacques Annaud has effectively captured both sincerity and splendor in this flawed but worthwhile film. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews:

  • A White Silk Scarf
    This is a story about a stubborn and arrogant man who needs to push his body to its absolute limits, but who dedicates very little of his energy to his soul or intellect. That's the concept the unites this film and the book on which it was based. But ultimately films owe no debt to the books or the reality on which they are based (read the book "Monster" by the late screenwriter and author John Gregory Dunne if you need to get that straight).

    Brad Pitt is not unwatchable as Heinrich Harrer, but you may cringe at his Austrian accent. Just remember that this film may not have been made at all without his interest and participation, and it wouldn't have been permitted the sort of budget that gave us the amazing landscapes which dominate the movie.

    I suppose once they had their big star, casting went for the very finest actors they could find regardless of their status: therefore, we have two beautifully resonant performances by David Thewlis as Pitt's climbing companion and Lhapka Tsamchoe as the Love Interest.

    This movie is about Heinrich Harrer, but there is some focus on his ties to the Dalai Lama. Very little screen time is spent in the camp for enemy aliens (those were YEARS of his life) or the difficult scrabble simply to exist once he escaped. The shots of the Dalai Lama's early childhood are there not only to foreshadow the important role the Dalai Lama ultimately plays, but also to establish a link between the child who befriends Harrer and the son who Harrer does not know.

    The authenticity and detail of Tibetan life, dress, buildings, and so forth is rare and overwhelming. Even if it was staged, it is a good record of a lost time.

    Further praise to the screenwriter (Becky Johnston) who translated a good book into a good movie. The addition of a few good laugh lines and the general development of character were well done.

    Heinrich Harrer is an interesting man and merits a movie about his life. Of course, the elements of living in Tibet and developing a friendship with the Dalai Lama are crucial to the interest. For my part I've watched the movie several times and I always get deliciously lost in the scenery....more info
  • A film to experience
    Great acting, beautiful cinematography, and an appropriate score make this a film worthy of watching numerous times. Having been to Tibet, I could not fault the film for its depiction of this fascinating country. The plot retains interest, but sometimes seems to gloss over significant events so the viewer needs to fill in the blanks. Brad Pitt's affected Austrian accent is off-putting, but, all in all, this is a great film worthy of a place in a home library.

    My only disappointment was that there are no special features. If you would like to learn more about Tibet during the period reflected in the movie, I suggest A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State
    ...more info
  • Brad Pitt's best performance , well almost
    I saw this film more than 14 months ago. At that time, I was not quite acquainted with films and didn't watch as many as I do now. This was surprisingly one of the first Brad Pitt films I had seen. To me he was only a good looking actor. After watching the epic like Seven years in Tibet, I know I am a fan for life.

    When this film starts and Pitt is shown as an army officer somewhere in Europe (think it was Hungary) I thought it would be based on the war solely.This film brought the adventurer's spirit in me. There is more than nature,huge land masses,different kinds of people and hills in Seven Years In Tibet. This movie celebrates friendship in a way that is quite difficult for me to comprehend. The relationship between Dalai Lama & Pitt was heartening. What is more hearetening was Pitt's character in the film and how he stood alone in the windmills of time.

    Pitt's character is both stupid and mentally very strong in the film. I'd rather not describe how it evolves into that of a satisfied mind. Tibet is beautiful. Being an Indian, I knew some of the places that are shown in this movie so it felt special.

    Lastly, this is one of the most under rated films I have seen. I own this movie now. Amazon recommends Kundun if you like this film but I do not. There is no film of the same stature as Seven Years In Tibet.If you're a newbie and want to watch some other Brad Pitt epics then I suggest you watch "Seven" , "Sleepers" and the best film he did "Troy" Kundun was a rather slow documentary like film plus no Brad Pitt.

    ...more info
  • A rousing, real-life adventure . . . with flaws
    Based on Austrian mountain-climbing Olympian Heinrich Harrer's memoir, Seven Years in Tibet is the story of West meets East. After escaping from a World War II British prison camp in India, Harrer (Brad Pitt) makes his way to the then-sovereign Tibet and, later in the film, forges an unlikely friendship with the young Dalai Lama.

    Strong points:
    1) The awesome photography of the Himalayas and of Tibet. The mist-shrouded mountain peaks and enoromous fields of tawny grass help kindle the sense of adventure and wonder.
    2) John William's score, which I believe is one of his best. The main theme makes the hair on your arms stand up. I truly believe that the film would be half as good without his score.
    3) David Thewlis' performance as Harrer's travel companion. Thewlis is one of the best character actors working today. I wish that he had played Harrer instead of Brad Pitt.
    4) The terse editing. There's a lot of time and events in this film, and the editing crew did a fine job keeping the pace brisk without compromising the story (too much, anyway).
    5) The portrait of the young Dalai Lama. The filmmakers never foget that he is, foremost, a child, and therefore he has child-like tendencies (spying, forgeting religious protocol). In many scenes, however, his maturity and wisdom are surprising, and the actor does an excellent job. You don't doubt him for a second.

    Weak points:
    1) Brad Pitt's performance. What can I say? He would have been one of my last picks to play Harrer. His accent is embarrassingly bad, and there's a silliness and frivolity about his performance that undermines the serious attitude of the film. Pitt excells at playing cocky characters, and, yes, Harrer is a bit of a bastard occasionally, but Pitt overdoes it. And I'm unconviced that Pitt's Harrer would be the least bit interested in making friends with the Dalai Lama.
    2) The transition from book to film. Usually I like to read the book before the film, but this time, I did the reverse and found that the film served as an excellent "introduction" to the book, which is far superior and offers a much more intimate portrait of the Tibetan people before the Chinese invaded it. There were many moments in the book that seemed like a no-brainer to be put in the film but, amazingly, weren't.
    3) The isse of language. Harrer spoke German and the Dalai Lama spoke Tibetan (or whatever their language is called). Everyone in the film, obviously, speaks English, whether they're really speaking German or Tibetan, so it's never clear when Harrer makes the transition from German to Tibetan. Can the Tibetans understand him at first? Can he understand them? They're both speaking English, yes, but one is speaking German, presumedly, and the other Tibetan . . . right?

    Overall, this would have been a great film had someone else besides Pitt been cast as Harrer, but I guess the filmmakers felt the subject matter wasn't interesting enough for an American audience to justify casting a lesser-known (and perhaps better) actor. ...more info
  • Undeservingly Under-rated
    Seven Years in Tibet is the story of Heinrich Harrer, a german mountain climber, peripheral nazi party member, political prisoner, and egoist. He is off to defeat Nanga Parbet (probably messed up the spelling), a mountain in the Himalayas. Events occur, blah, and he is taken as a POW by some british troops at base camp. Apparently when he was on the mountain, germany declared war on england. He does manage to escape, with the help of a few other of the climbers, to Tibet, finally getting there with only one other, played by David Thewlis, an excellent actor. The two of them spend the titular seven years in Lhasa, the storied capital of Tibet, ancient as the hills, and forbidden to foreigners.

    Here is where the detailed shadings of Pitt's character are revealed, both through his amazing ability to both comprehend and display the nuances of his character and every half-smile and subtle gesture that bring his character to life. Through his interactions with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, we see Harrer change, slowly, from egotistical and uninterested to close confidant and caring teacher/father/friend. I'm not a Brad Pitt fan, but have you to give credit where credit is due.

    The story is based on the true experiences of Heinrich Harrer and the Dalai Lama (who is an amazing speaker, if ever he wanders your way, definately check it out, he has this way of simplifying any problem to a matter of love and understanding no christian ever could). The story is poignant, as we see the impending war with China, the pathetic and futile attempts of the TIbetans to raise a military, and the inevitable conquest. They're still under communist rule, and sometimes you'll see hippies or Rage Against the Machine (RIP) fans with "Free Tibet" bumper stickers on their cars, and this is what they're referring to. Anyway, the story itself is touching and well-scripted. There are a few quibble-able points, though. First, you are told in no uncertain terms how to feel about almost every character and situation. That's pretty much true. Oh, well. Next point. Some would say it's too "hollywood". I would disagree, however, because the only signs of a hollywood influence are the budget and the talent. Both lended themselves perfectly to their parts (Worth mentioning: the scenery, something only attainable with that crazy hollywood budget, is breathtaking. Money well-spent. Absolutely gorgeous, each location in perfect tune with both the story and the seasons).

    That's pretty much it. Great story held up by great acting (check out that kid who played the Dalai Lama; he blew me away!) and made to feel lush and alive with astonishing locations. Worth renting if you're not sure you'll dig it, worth buying if you know you do....more info

  • It's Good Dammit!
    i can't agree with someone who said that this is brad pitt's best acting performance.I don't think its true but i do think that he did very well in this film.i enjoyed the movie from the beginning to the end. its an emotional,political,adventurous rollercoaster of a movie. i can't believe the negative reviews about this movie. well that's surely due to the fact that many people are not well educated on the issue that was between tibet & china. im not gonna sit and tell you what the movie is about b/c its something you have to watch on your own. but one thing is for sure I ENJOYED THIS MOVIE ALOT.check it out, you won't be disappointed...more info
  • Nice Visuals, Story
    It was nice to see Brad Pitt in such a restrained role. It's an interesting story of "Henrik Harrer" (Pitt) and his adventures getting to Tibet with his friend "Peter Aufschnaiter" (David Thewlis) and then his relationship to the young Dali Lama.

    The film is as pretty as you would expect from one in such mountainous surroundings . There are really nice colors in here and the movie looks just great on DVD, especially Blu-Ray. The story tells of Harrer's escape from the Western world and from participating in WWII. He winds up spending seven years in Tibet, hence the title.

    Finally, I thought the soundtrack was good, too, featuring an instrument I don't know but love its sound. The cinematography in here, and justifiably, gets a lot of attention, but the music is great, too. Even though I've heard it said this probably was in large part a propaganda piece for the Dali Lama, I found it a surprisingly good story and very pleasing.
    ...more info
  • A visual treat
    Stunning visuals and an engaging story make this film a winer. Blue-ray makes it even better, as some scenes wil take your breath away with grandeur and beauty....more info
  • how to please someone
    My partner described liking this film after finding the book in my collection, and said she'd only had a copy on an old video cassette in the attic, so, it was absolutely brilliant to be able to find it on your site and have it delivered within a couple of days to our house as a surprise present. Many thanks Paul ...more info
  • This is a Great Film
    This film is educational, having been based on a true story.
    This film has numerous spiritual moments.
    This film does not reduce itself to unnecesary sex, violence, etc. to sell more tickets, yet it masterfully grabs the viewers attention and does not ditch showing violence when necessary.
    The photography was breathtaking.
    The acting was superb.
    This film has dimension and wrestles with the problem of evil in a mature way.
    The plot is excellent, sometimes truth IS better than fiction.
    The characters are easy to like.

    If you haven't seen Seven Years in Tibet yet, don't miss it....more info
  • A Story of Love and Peace
    This film should be a must-see for all high school aged children....more info
  • BRAD PITTS GREATEST PERFORMANCE
    I dont have much to say really about the film because I do believe that it could have been better. But not much better. The story centers around Brad as a hiker who leaves his wife despite her wishes. Blah, Blah, Blah I just want to get to the acting Brad Pitt delivers a heartwarming and powerful performance which he was abruptly overlooked at the Golden Globe Awards and Oscars. But dont worry Brad your an Oscar winner in my book!!!!!!!!...more info
  • Ironic issue
    The fact is simple that most of Americans know nothing about Tibet.

    This country liberated itself from Britain but inherited many colonial scars from Britan as the Tibitan issue.

    This country fought a civil war for slavery, but unconciously sympathetic to the ghost of the most notorious slavery society: Dalai Lama.

    What an irony!

    Pitt seems brighter than the Play Girl icon and religion-lost R. Gear, but his taking of this role appears culturely illiterate....more info

  • A Wonderful Film
    Seven Years in Tibet is one of my favorite movies of all time (next to The Godfather). The photography is beautiful and the story engaging. The fact that it may not be historically accurate doesn't take away the enertainment value.

    Brad Pitt gives a fine performance, (he does a pretty good Austrian accent,) and this is saying a lot considering I've never been a huge fan. I believe part of what made this movie so engaging was its location. Tibet being such a secluded place, and Lhasa even more so, the depiction of it before oppression by the Chinese gave me a better understanding of just what was lost.

    I'd recommend this movie to anyone....more info

  • Not bad--some beautiful scenes, good acting.
    Jean-Jacques Annaud's film is a little too long, and parts of it are more evocative of a National Geographic Special than a movie with a plot, but all the same there are more than a few positive things about "Seven Years in Tibet." Heinrich Harrer, whose Nazi past lent an element of controversy to the film around the time it opened, apparently had a genuinely warm relationship with the present Dalai Lama, and this friendship is nicely depicted onscreen. Brad Pitt, in the role of Harrer, drew much criticism for his Austrian accent, but it's really not too bad (certainly no worse than the accents attempted by Gregory Peck and other American actors) and his performance, particularly in the second half of the film, is quite good. David Thewlis does fine work as Harrer's colleague, Peter Aufschnaiter, and it's nice to have (mostly) Tibetan actors actually portraying Tibetan individuals. Oddly, there is little development in the character played by B.D. Wong, in spite of the fact that he supposedly plays a key role in the fall of Lhasa to the invading Chinese forces. (That's not Mr. Wong's fault, but the script writer's.) It is interesting to see Mako (a Japanese-American whose lengthy career as a film and stage actor spans decades) in his few brief appearances as one of Harrer's Tibetan benefactors. The scenery is spectacular, and sets and costumes are well done. Unfortunately, the murky images of Chinese soldiers running rampant through Tibetan villages don't have enough emotional punch, and tell us little about the mass destruction perpetrated in the first years of the occupation. We are also left in the dark as to how Harrer made his way back to Austria. However, the conclusion of the film, in which Harrer pays a visit to the son he never knew, is moving, and one is left with the sense that one has viewed something worthwhile--not a masterpiece, but relevant....more info
  • A Movie that Moves Viewers Heart
    7 Years in Tibet is about a German-Austrian Mountain Climber - Heinrich Harrer's spiritual journey and his meeting with the young Dali Lama during his journey.

    Although I am not a big fan of Brad Pitt, I thought he did an excellent acting job as the character Heinrich Harrer, who many of us can identify and relate to - The goal oriented and egoistic person who life brought him down to his knees feeling separated and isolated in the foreign country - Tibet (to not spoil the story, I will let you watch the movie to figure out what happen to this character). I am also happy the main character Heinrich Harrer was acted by Brad Pitt because he is a famous movie star (that makes many others want to watch the movie and be aware of the issue Tibet has suffered).

    After I watched the movie, I also went on a google search to see a biography of Heinrich Harrer. I was surprised on how the costume and the make-up of the movie of the main characters match what I saw on the internet. It shows that the movie must have been made with great care of details to match the culture, the history and the times.

    I love the story of this movie (and probably will buy the book to read some day) because it is different from the standard "love story" comedies or the violent victory movies portraying some heroes out there saving the world. The movie is made from a true story about Heinrich Harrer's friendship with the young Dali Lama and how the wisdom from Dali Lama helped Heinrich Harrer to grow spiritually as a human being (you have to watch the movie to experience this inspiration).

    As a Chinese, I am ashamed of what the Chinese Government at the time did to Tibetans, yet I have no right to vote against their behavior and violence. I am ashamed of what the Chinese Government has done still today about not freeing Tibet, yet, I do not have a right to vote of a government that listens to my voice. My own parents suffered from separation, despair and sorrow from the same Chinese Government during Chinese Cultural revolution in the 60s. Therefore, even though I am not a Tibetan, I can understand what Tibetans must have been through - physical and emotional torture from this unconscious, egoistic entity.

    I am writing this review to let others know that not all Chinese out there are ruthless and insensitive about this issue. I care about this issue and one could only hope the nation of Tibet can find its political freedom some day. Maybe political freedom will come later. However, may I humbly ask for healing, forgiveness Tibetans have suffered all these years because resentment, hatred, if any, can only poison ourselves further and these poison can be passed on to many more generations. All I can say is if I were ever a Chinese Government official, I would have been one/want to be one who can stand up representing the Chinese Government to say, "I apologize for what my government has done. Human beings are all one. Let us show respect, compassion, integrity just like the way the Tibetan culture have shown us - Compassion, non-violence, peace." May that time come soon as the global consciousness is awakening of itself.

    Thank you for reading my review....more info
  • Shallow Hollywood movie that hijacks Tibetan plight
    This is supposedly the true story of Heinrich Harrer, the German mountain climber captured by the British during a failed attempt to scale the famed peak of Nanga Parbat at the outbreak of WWII. Escaping from a British-run POW camp, Harrer links up with fellow climber and escapee Peter Aufschnaiter and the two troll around the Himalayas looking for food, but not much else. Eventually, the two manage to enter Tibet and, by June of 1944, the city of Lhasa - significant since the entire country is supposed to be closed to foreigners. Inexplicably finding asylum with the court of the then pre-teen Dalai Lama, Harrer and Aufschnaiter settle down and try to create new lives. With the end of the war, however, comes a new danger: Red China. Consolidating their rule, the communists invade and annex Tibet, a military exercise that claims untold number of Tibetans and ends Tibet's quiet autonomy.

    A worthwhile subject, but still a horrible movie, the perfect example of what happens when Hollywood gets its paws on a deserving story. First, the acting. David Thewlis is acceptable as Harrer's comrade, while BD Wong is laughably suspect as the Tibetan minister Ngawang Jigme who sells the country out to the Chinese. There is no stand-out performance except for Brad Pitt as Harrer - which has to be the single worst performance for an A-list actor of any flick. An incredibly fake and unnecessary German accent burdens an already overweight delivery. The script bravely makes Pitt an unlikable, selfish and dishonest lout (wandering the Himalayas in starvation with Aufschnaiter, Harrer convinces Aufschnaiter to sell his last watch for food - though Harrer has several watches of his own.) redeemed by the spiritual purity and divine honesty of Tibetan culture. Only, the script never gets as far as redeeming Harrer before the Chinese enter the picture and give the story something bigger than Harrer to dislike. (In one nightmarish scene, a column of Chinese infantry routs a pitifully small Tibetan force; in the night, the column resembles something of an armored Chinese dragon that spits automatic gunfire from its sides.) Though Harrer remains as unlikable as ever, the invasions allows the script to canonize him for voicing doubts that are never evinced by any of the Tibetans - those Red Chinese can't be doing us any good. Harrer doesn't really do anything, but the script makes the remaining Tibetans so helpless that his recognition of the Chinese menace elevates him to heroic. As a cry for the Tibetans, "Seven Years" deserves no accolades - the film delves barely into just what the Chinese have done to Tibet other than invade it (an ominous message at the end claims that many Tibetan lives were lost as a result of China's invasion, but doesn't say how. Harrer decides to escape the invaded Tibet and manages to make his way home without any trouble). Otherwise, the Chinese themselves are simply louts - bigger, more heavily armed and numerous than Harrer and the Tibetans, and conspicuously contemptuous of everybody. The script assumes that western audiences are as familiar with the Tibetan experience as they are with those witnessed by large numbers of westerners - like the world wars, the holocaust, the depression, etc - but we're not. To heap further indignity, the film essentially hijacks the plight of the Tibetans - what purports to be a story of the Tibetan suffering remains second place to Harrer's constant brooding. The Tibetan characters are largely anonymous in a story set in their country. If not for the Chinese, Harrer would have nothing to think about besides himself. Of course the Tibetans (the Dalai Lama himself) look up to Harrer and Aufschnaiter as otherworldly gods. What a perfect example for the Politically Correct to prove the snobbery of the west. By the end of the film, you'll feel like you've spent seven years in your chair, and are none the better for it....more info