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Seven Years in Tibet
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Seven Years in Tibet is a simple story about a complicated issue.

Brad Pitt plays Heinrich Harrer, the 1936 Olympics medal winner who sets out to climb one of the Himalaya's highest peaks, Nanga Parbat. Leaving behind his pregnant wife, his expedition with fellow climber Peter Aufschnaiter (David Thewlis - last seen in Mike Leigh's Naked) is for the glory of the Fatherland as their conquest of the peak is in the name of Germany's Nazi propaganda machine.
Headstrong and self centered, Harrer is determined to make it to the top. However, an avalanche and the slight diversion of World War II, burst his dream bubble.

Seven Years in Tibet is based on Harrer's autobiography chronicling his fantastic adventures between 1944 and 1951, starting with his Himalayan climb to his friendship with the Dalai Lama years later. Interestingly in his epilogue, he refers to the Chinese occupation of Tibet (where 1.3 million Tibetans died and almost 90 monasteries were destroyed) as genocide; yet Harrer's Nazi links are conveniently left out of the film except for two voice-over lines.

"I'm Austrian. I'm a climber. I have nothing to do with your silly war," Harrer screams at a British officer as he and his group are imprisoned in a POW camp near the Indian-Tibetan border.
 
In an emotionally-charged scene (where Pitt proves that he's more than a just pretty face), Harrer throws himself against the camp's barbed fence in frustration when he learns that his wife wants a divorce and his son doesn't know his own father.

He attempts to escape a few times but proves to be no Houdini. When he eventually manages his escape thanks to the help of the other climbers, he remains independent to the core and ditches the rest of the group once they've helped him.
 
Ultimately only Harrer and Aufschnaiter are successful in evading death and recapture. Harrer is forced to join him when they meet up again, just as he's running out of rations, and they decide to travel to Tibet together to wait out the rest of the war. Though the movie's sole battle scene is filled with special effects it fails to bring out the horrors of war.
     
It's only after 90 minutes that we see Harrer and the Dalai Lama's friendship grow. Curious about Western ways, and in need of a companion that doesn't constantly bow to him as a holy man in a child's body, the boy and Harrer adopt each other as mutual mentors and friends.

The usual mockery of a "backward" people's first glimpse of technology comes when they see their first movie and can only make puppet shadows with their hands. Eventually, the Dalai Lama helps Harrer find peace with himself when he finally comes to terms with reality and decides that he needs to be with his son in Germany.
 
Annaud's memorable film comes with rich cinematography, an impressive score and interesting casting (genuine monks were hired and the real Dalai Lamas sister plays his mother), all of which goes to making Seven Years in Tibet a must-see for more reasons than just to see Brad Pitt.
     

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