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: Gyatso Lukhang, Robert Lin , Tulkma Jamyang Kunga Tenzin , Sonan Phuns, Gyurme Tethong, Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong, Tencho Gyalpo, Tsewang Migyur Gyatso
  • 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

    About Elly

    Taraneh Alidoosti stars in a gripping, award-winning mystery-thriller from Oscar-winning Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi.

  • Film4

    Odd Thomas

    Anton Yelchin stars in Stephen Sommers' charged adaptation of Dean Koontz's supernatural novel.

  • Film4

    Action Month 2016 on Film4

    A whole month of action favourites every night at 9.00pm throughout June.

  • Film4

    Oldboy on Film4

    Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen and Samuel L. Jackson star in Spike Lee's remake of the Korean hit, playing for the first time on Film4.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Five questions for Jim Gillespie

    We grabbed five minutes with Jim Gillespie after his Edinburgh International Film Festival directing masterclass to put five burning questions to the man behind I Know What You Did Last Summer, whose

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Clio Barnard's Dark River starts shooting

    Principal photography has commenced on Dark River, the third feature film from writer/director Clio Barnard (The Arbor, The Selfish Giant), starring Ruth Wilson (The Affair, Saving Mr Banks), Mark Sta

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

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

or Register

Share