Seven Years in Tibet, Blu-ray (1997)

by | Jul 10, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Seven Years in Tibet, Blu-ray (1997)

Starring: Brad Pitt, David Thewlis
Studio: Sony Pictures TriStar 18696
Video: 2.40:1 enhanced for 16:9 widescreen, color, 1080p HD
Audio: English Uncompressed 5.1 PCM, Dolby Digital 5.1, French DD 5.1
Subtitles: English EDH, English, French, Spanish, Thai, Portuguese
Length: 136 minutes
Rating: *****

A magnificent, epic film that reminded me of the sweep of Ghandi – though 7 Years is not really about the Dalai Lama but about Austrian mountain climber Heinrich Harrer. The screenplay was based on his book about being imprisoned in India by British soldiers at the outbreak of WWII, escaping after many attempts, and meeting the new Dalai Lama. Pitt was criticized at the film’s release for his poor Austrian accent, but in general he does a terrific job portraying his gradual conversion from a self-centered-ass Nazi mountain climber who has run out on his wife because he can’t handle her pregnancy, to a fine and loving human being.  It is all due to his evolving close relationship with the winsome young Dalai Lama  – who was acted by three different Tibetan youngsters: aged 4, 8 and 14 – and the power of the Tibetan Buddhist way of life. (That conversion was not a part of Harrer’s book.) Thewlis is excellent as his fellow mountain climber and the role of the Tibetan woman he marries adds a welcome aspect to the story.

The film created increased public debate on the Chinese claim to Tibet, and shows the bloody invasion in 1950, plus Harrer’s advice to the Dalai Lama to leave the country – which he refused to do until 1959 when he exiled himself to India.  The conflict, however, is just part of the background of the fascinating and touching relationship between the Austrian and the Dalai Lama – who according to the closing credits maintain their enduring friendship today.  It should be pointed out that the relationship, as well as other scenes in the film, are not without some comic relief.

Seven Years in Tibet is a perfect film for the hi-res treatment – though I understand there was a Superbit version in 2003 that is almost as good.  The colors and costume details are brilliant and fascinating to see and the many wide vistas and mountain scenes are breathtaking. But fantastically-detailed close ups are also part of the cinematographer’s approach.  The uncompressed surround track was clearly more transparent than the Dolby option, including even the clarity of the dialog. But although the deep and reverberant sounds of the monks chanting and the “alpine horns”  and percussion instruments came across realistically, there wasn’t a great deal of surround audio use to support the impact of the tremendous visuals. My copy hung up a number of times on my Pioneer Blu-ray player during the Chinese invasion scene. It was also disappointing to discover that, like the earlier DVDs, the Blu-ray had absolutely no extras of any sort.

 – John Sunier

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