Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 12
  • Biography, Drama
  • 1997
  • 128 mins

Kundun

Kundun

Synopsis

Scorcese swaps mooks for monks for a movie meditation on the early life of the 14th Dalai Lama and the non violent struggle of Tibet

About

Martin Scorsese sets himself the straightforward but epic task of telling the life story of Tenzin Gyatso from the moment, aged two, that he was recognised as the 14th reincarnation of the Dalai Lama to his exile from his native Tibet to India 26 years later in 1959.

The early stages of the film are reminiscent of The Last Emperor, telling the story of a young boy's graduation from mischievous scamp to wise adult - colourful, playful and light. The tone changes from joy to sorrow in the second half of the film when it documents the Chinese oppression of Tibet and the Dalai Lama's attempts to protect his people. Brilliantly filmed and hypnotically paced Kundun is an intriguing movie that despite dialogue that seems dumbed down at times does little to over dramatise real events to please cinema audiences. The weakest moments are those featuring Chinese leader Chairman Mao (Lin) - who comes across as a camp super villain rather than ruthless Communist dictator. A shame, after the wonderful acting of the four different actors playing the Dalai Lama at various ages (Paichang at two, Tenzin at five, Tethong at ten, Tsarong as an adult).

A challenging, thought provoking, mediative film that sits uncomfortably with Scorcese's previous work is helped no end by a superb score by Philip Glass. Kundun is rather like a visit to yoga class - it will leave you feeling slightly giddy and enlightened. The effect though is temporary - despite it's grandeur and fine intentions it's far too quiet to really grab the attention.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Tencho Gyalpo, Sonan Phuns, Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong, Tulkma Jamyang Kunga Tenzin , Gyurme Tethong, Tsewang Migyur Gyatso, Gyatso Lukhang, Robert Lin
  • Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Writer: Melissa Mathison
  • Producer: Barbara De Fina
  • Photographer: Roger Deakins
  • Composer: Philip Glass

In a nutshell

Verdict
Overly reverent but mesmerising biopic.

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Endless Love

    Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde star in this romantic drama directed by Shana Feste.

  • Film4

    Northern Soul

    Elliot James Langridge and Josh Whitehouse star in writer-director Elaine Constantine's coming-of-age drama.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2016: Top Ten

    Film4.com Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival...   The Oath I'd already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (inc

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Baltasar Kormakur on The Oath

    As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with Film4.com editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share