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Volume 91, Issue 26

Wednesday, October 15, 1997

Country Club road


Two hours in Tibet evokes little emotion

©David Appleby
"NOT A BAD BEARD FOR A PRETTY BOY EH?"Brad Pitt sports some saucey new facial hair in his grand new epic, Seven Years in Tibet

By Vivien Cheng
Gazette Staff

Sometimes, even when Brad Pitt takes off his shirt, holds his breath in and ripples his washboard stomach, he doesn't get the girl.

Heinrich Harrer, a renowned Austrian mountain climber, is played by Pitt, who was cast for the part several years before being named the 'sexiest man alive.' Unfortunately, no amount of labeling will be of assistance when it comes time for the beautiful Tibetan Pema to choose between Pitt and his climbing friend Peter Aufschnaiter (David Thewlis). Aufschnaiter wins, hands down. But Seven Years in Tibet is not truly about who wins the girl. Pitt's defeat could be due in part to his feeble attempt at an Austrian accent, but is largely the result of an emotionally lacking performance in Jean-Jacques Annaud's film about a journey to spiritual enlightenment.

Seven Years in Tibet commences in 1939 when Harrer and a team of German mountain climbers set out to climb Nanga Parbat, the highest peak of the Himalayas. After a war is declared, the team is captured and held in a prisoner-of-war camp in India. Harrer and Aufschnaiter manage to escape and subsequently endure an agonizing 2400-kilometre trek across the mountains to the Tibetan city of Lhasa.

Not only do Harrer and Aufschnaiter become the first foreigners allowed to remain in the sacred city of Lhasa, but Aufschnaiter eventually marries Pema, the tailor who initially attracts the attention of both men. As well, it is in Lhasa that Harrer becomes a tutor to the Dalai Lama. In the process of teaching the young religious leader the ways of the Western world, Harrer is able to spiritually transform himself from a selfishly stubborn man to a more enlightened person.

In filming exterior scenes, Annaud uses the landscapes of Argentina, Canada and Austria in lieu of Tibet. The result is admirable, as he is able to capture visually impressive scenes with seemingly little effort. Interior scenes are filmed equally as well. The camera manages to embrace the subtle grandeur and humble aura of the home belonging to the boy deemed the reincarnate of Buddha.

Although a visually-appealing production, Harrer's transformation is minimal, as Pitt leaves much to be desired in the audience's relation to its main character. At the beginning of the film, Pitt delivers lines which depict his uncaring nature. However, that is the extent to which his character's complexity stretches. The audience is unable to emotionally relate to Pitt, consequently leaving us faltering for emotional attachment at the film's end.

It seems that no amount of sex appeal can save a film when the character and story-line are not fully developed. Seven Years in Tibet is a remarkable must-see for its cinematography – if nothing else.

To Contact The Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997