[Screen It]


(1997) (Brad Pitt, David Thewlis) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
None Moderate Moderate Moderate Extreme
Minor None Minor None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
None Minor Mild Mild Extreme

Drama: A mountain climber's scheduled four-month trip turns into a decade's worth of adventure, peril and his rediscovery of himself.
In 1939, Austrian mountain climber Heinrich Harrer (BRAD PITT) and a group of other climbers led by Peter Aufschnaiter (DAVID THEWLISS) head off to conquer Nanga Parbat, the highest peak in India's Himalayan Range. Unable to make it to the top, they're then arrested and imprisoned by British forces as the beginning of WWII breaks out. Harrer and Aufschnaiter manage to escape from their P.O.W. camp and head on foot for Tibet, hoping to stay there until the war ends. After a two-year trek they arrive, desperate and hungry, and head for the forbidden city of Lhasa. There they meet an aspiring political leader, Ngawang Jigme (B.D. WONG), as well as a wise older man, Kungo Tsarong (MAKO) who takes them in. The Dalai Lama (JAMYANG JAMTSHO WANGCHUK), who is just a fourteen-year-old boy, but the spiritual leader of Tibet, wants to meet them due to his interest in the outside world. While Peter romances Pema Lhaki (LHAKPA TSAMCHOE), a local tailor, Heinrich befriends the Dalai Lama and begins tutoring him in the ways of the world. They become close friends and during the next several years Heinrich becomes his most trusted aide. When the communist Chinese decide they must rule Tibet, however, the Dalai Lama finds his country in a state of turmoil and Heinrich does what he can to help his friend.
If they're fans of Pitt, they might, but this film probably won't be of much interest to most children.
For some violent sequences.
  • BRAD PITT plays an arrogant, self-centered loner who experiences a self-transformation after a long journey to Tibet and his meeting and friendship with the Dalai Lama.
  • DAVID THEWLISS plays another mountain climber who's forced to accompany Heinrich on their long journey and also finds happiness in Tibet.
  • JAMYANG JAMTSHO WANGCHUCK plays the fourteen-year-old Dalai Lama who is the spiritual leader of his people. He also has an unsatiable desire for learning and eagerly does so with Heinrich's help.


    OUR TAKE: 8.5 out of 10
    The first event movie of the fall season and a heavy Oscar contender, "Seven Years in Tibet" stars what some may consider to be an unlikely actor to headline an epic picture such as this. While Brad Pitt ("Legends of the Fall," "Seven") is certainly a charismatic and versatile actor (and received an Oscar nomination for his work in "Twelve Monkeys"), some might scoff at the idea of a matinee heartthrob starring in such a film. For those of you in that camp, get ready for a pleasant surprise -- Pitt holds his own and then some in this production. Although it's doubtful he'll receive a nomination for this role, he certainly delivers a strong and entirely believable performance. Like Pitt's acting, the other performers are first-rate with David Thewlis ("Naked," "The Island of Dr. Moreau") standing out as Heinrich's companion and his performance may warrant a nomination for best supporting actor. Fourteen-year-old newcomer Wangchuk is outstanding as the Dalai Lama, a difficult role to play as he must portray a regal dignity that barely suppresses a boyish enthusiasm in a character who has no choice but to rule his country.

    Essentially a dual plotted film, the story follows Pitt's character through the first half until he leads us to Tibet where the focus then shifts over to the secretive land of Tibet just before the political and social upheaval caused by the Chinese government. Plotted as such, the film is really about a reawakening of oneself. We're told that the Tibetans believe that a long, arduous journey cleanses the soul, and Heinrich, who starts as an arrogant loner, transforms into a completely different man by the story's end. The story works well as the close relationship between Heinrich and the Dalai Lama fulfills both of their needs. For Heinrich's transformation to be complete, he needs to realize that he can be a good father. His tutoring of the Dalai Lama gives him that tool that later provides closure to his difficult familial relationship problems. The Dalai Lama, on the other hand, gets to learn about the world outside Tibet.

    The film is magnificent to watch and its more than two and a half hour runtime passes with ease and never feels long or tedious -- despite its "epic" nature. A few rough edits and some awkwardly short sequences hint that the film was probably initially longer and had to be edited down for time constraints. A brief avalanche scene quickly comes and goes, and a sequence where the main characters are captured by thieves and then escape is very short, choppy and awkwardly placed in the film. Additionally, Pitt's occasional voice over may put off some viewers, but it is done in a diary reading fashion and isn't too obtrusive. Still, those are minor complaints in an otherwise tremendously made movie.

    While a great deal of the film was shot in Argentina (substituted for Tibet), the vistas are still incredibly awesome. That equally describes Robert Fraisse's cinematography, Enrico Sabbatini's costumes, At Hoang's production design and John Williams' sweeping score, all of which should receive Oscar nominations. It's doubtful that Pitt's core audience of swooning, teenage girls will find this film to their liking, but it wasn't designed for them. This movie is for audiences looking for a mature, serious feature with high production values. If you fall into that category, you will no doubt thoroughly enjoy this film. We give "Seven Years in Tibet" an 8.5 out of 10.

    There's not a great deal of objectionable material in this film. While the categories of violence and guns/weapons received extreme ratings due to several war scenes where many people are killed, those scenes are brief and relatively bloodless. Profanity is limited to five "s" words and there's just a little smoking and no drinking. Heinrich has a bad attitude for part of the film, but has a transformation that turns him into a good person. The Chinese takeover of Tibet also falls into the bad attitude category and is a source, along with the history of this country, for discussion with kids. While it's doubtful many children will want to see this film, you should read through the content before you and/or they see it.

  • None.
  • Heinrich's spiked boot gouges his leg and leaves a bloody wound. Later, blood rapidly drips from the wound onto the snow.
  • Heinrich has some bloody scrapes on his hands and arms after throwing himself against a barb wire fence in a P.O.W. camp.
  • Heinrich throws up and has some vomit on his mouth.
  • Peter's toes are all bloody and gross looking after his shoes have deteriorated in the cold winter.
  • Peter and Heinrich eat raw, bloody meat from a dead horse.
  • Several war scenes show dead and occasionally bloody people, but the wounds aren't graphic.
  • Heinrich has an arrogant, jock-like attitude about him during the first half of the film.
  • Heinrich leaves his pregnant wife and goes on a four-month expedition -- he later says he was running away from fatherhood -- despite her pleas for him to stay.
  • Heinrich lies to Peter about his leg injury, thus endangering Peter's life when he needs to be rescued after sliding off a cliff.
  • Heinrich and Peter steal food when they can during their two-year trek.
  • Heinrich briefly makes fun of a local Tibetan's strange sounding language, but mainly does so to drive the man away from him and Peter.
  • Heinrich makes Peter trade his beloved watch, given to him by his father, for food when Heinrich had three watches himself.
  • Obviously the Chinese government has both as they violently take over Tibet. Additionally, several Chinese generals blatantly stomp through a "symbol of peace" that the monks had constructed on the floor and a general later states, "Religion is poison."
  • Ngawang orders a Tibetan ammo dump to be blown up, thus ending their chances of defending themselves against the Chinese attacks.
  • Heinrich slides out of control down a mountain and injures his leg.
  • Peter loses his footing and slides off the mountain, and is held only by Heinrich and his rope. Heinrich's leg injury has weakened him, however, and he begins to lose his grip and is pulled toward the edge of a cliff while Peter tries to climb to safety.
  • The mountain climbing team must race from an avalanche in a brief scene.
  • Heinrich tries to escape from a P.O.W. camp several times and is fired upon in each. He and the others then finally make it out in a moderately tense daylight escape.
  • There are several scenes where Tibetans are attacked and killed by advancing Chinese militia.
  • Rifles/Machine Guns/Mortars: Used to shoot at or kill many people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Idiot," "Shut up," and "Bastard."
  • Climbing mountains or other potentially hazardous vertical surfaces.
  • Heinrich spits in a guard's face in a P.O.W. camp.
  • None.
  • There's some weird sounding music that comes from the long ceremonial horns, but it rates as minor at its worst.
  • There's just a little bit of suspenseful music in a few other scenes.
  • None.
  • 5 "s" words and 1 use each of "My God" and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • None.
  • Heinrich smokes a few times.
  • A few P.O.W. prisoners smoke.
  • Kungo smokes once.
  • Heinrich leaves his pregnant wife and goes on a four-month expedition -- he later says he was running away from fatherhood -- despite her pleas for him to stay.
  • Years later, Heinrich receives divorce papers from his wife. He also gets a letter from his son (whom he's never met) who tells him that he's not his father and to stop writing him letters.
  • The historical accuracy of this true story.
  • Tibet, the Dalai Lama, and the Chinese occupation of this country.
  • Heinrich tries to escape from a P.O.W. camp several times and is fired at by the guards.
  • Heinrich throws himself against a barb wire fence in a P.O.W. camp and gets cut.
  • Heinrich and Peter get into a very slight and brief pushing match.
  • In a very brief scene, some thieves surround Heinrich and Peter's camp and yank them from their tent. Later, they shoot at the two men who make their escape away from these thieves.
  • Tibetans are killed by machine gun and mortar fire as Chinese military forces attack a city. Buildings are blown up, a person is set on fire, and a man is forced to shoot another man in the head (not explicitly seen).
  • Another war scene has even more Tibetans being shot and blown up by Chinese forces. Hundreds or thousands are killed, but we see few graphic scenes.
  • A Tibetan ammo dump is blown up.
  • Heinrich throws Ngawang to the ground after he deliberately surrendered Tibet to the Chinese government.

  • Reviewed October 6, 1997

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