Take a Drink: whenever an accent dodges and weaves
Take a Drink: for philosophy
Take a Drink: whenever Brad Pitt does something antisocial
Take a Drink: for diary entries
Take a Drink: for strange new customs… Eastern and Western
Take a Drink: for butter tea… which is exactly what it sounds like
Do a Shot: for grisly wounds
Do a Shot: for Tibetan Grandma… such a badass.
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
It’s interesting seeing the evolution of Hollywood prettyboys into respected actors. Remember when everyone scoffed at Titanic heartthrob Leo DiCaprio’s “serious” efforts like The Beach, or how Bradley Cooper was arguably the fourth most interesting member of The Hangover ensemble? Believe it or not, there was a time when Brad Pitt was also considered more eye candy than actor, and it took hard work for him to get past that.
You don’t say…
Seven Years in Tibet was ground zero for that argument back in 1997. In it he stars as an Austrian mountain climber who leaves his family for what he thinks will be a several month climb on the eve of World War II. After being detained and escaping from a British concentration camp in India, he makes his way with a fellow climber (David Thewlis) to the forbidden kingdom of Tibet. While there he meets a precocious young boy who happens to be the religious leader of his nation, and witnesses Chinese encroachment on this once defiantly free land.
This is a beautifully realized adventure tale in almost every way. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud meticulously recreates 1940s-era Tibet, the particulars of which blow my mind. Some 20 minutes of footage (most likely the establishing shots of the incredible Potala Palace) were stealthily shot in Tibet, but for the vast majority of the film, the Argentine Andes stand in for the Himalayas. Mountains are mountains, but the costuming and sets, particularly the interiors of the temples and palaces, are exactly like what I saw when I was fortunate enough to visit Tibet. One crane shot in particular of what looks exactly like Jokhang Temple, but which would have been impossible to capture on the sly at the real location, was mind-boggling. Gorgeously lensed by DP Robert Fraisse, this is a technical and production design achievement of the highest order.
You can almost taste the butter tea… thankfully almost.
Annaud also makes great use of practical effects, eerie lighting, and well-chosen locations to construct visceral, realistic mountain climbing and battlefield setpieces. The culture clash comedy and drama between the old, pre-Chinese invasion Tibetan customs and the strange Europeans who represented some of the first they’d ever seen is very believable and consistently intriguing. At the heart of the film, though, is Pitt’s Heinrich Harrer and the young Dalai Llama, played ably by two different Tibetan boys at different ages. This curious, intelligent boy and the formerly selfish, even sleazy, but magnetic Aryan posterboy forge a strong, heart-warming connection you can’t help but be drawn in by.
Pitt’s not bad, but he or the script misses something essential. He goes from being a volatile, rather dickish loner to a loyal, peaceful admirer of the young Dalai Llama, but that transformation is poorly conveyed, either by Pitt or the script, and it feels like it comes out of the blue. Ebert thinks the film follows the wrong character, and should have been told from a Tibetan’s POV. I agree- I’d watch a whole movie about Tibetan Grandma.
She’s so awesome.
Brad Pitt’s Ahhhnold accent is quite bad, but he commits to it, and it has its entertainment value. A worse idea is how the film Hollywoods up Harrer’s 1940s Nazi past. Those Brits were 100% correct in plopping him in a concentration camp, because the movie forgoes mentioning how Mr. “Thank you, but I’m Austrian” was a Nazi Schutzstaffel officer.
Harrer undoubtedly underwent an incredible personal transformation from being a part of the most heinous organization in history to the bosom buddy of Mr. Peace himself, but you won’t get that from Seven Years in Tibet.
Seven Years in Tibet tells an epic story in a truly epic fashion, but falls short on the more personal particulars.