Kundun (Review)


Peace be with you.

Peace be with you.

OK. Lately I’ve watched nothing but horror movies and silly comedies so I thought I would broaden my horizons somewhat and grab a more serious film and perhaps try to learn something for a change.

I’ve now done that and can’t say I feel that appreciably better for the experience.

It must be a pretty weird feeling for a 2 or 3 year old kid to be told he is to run a country, and one that I might never experience.

The problem with Kundun is the subject matter. The movie concerns the discovery and life of the 14th (and current) Dalai Lama, and of course there is a fair amount of time focusing on the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet.

Now I am not saying this isn’t a worthwhile and amazing life, only that most people with a 7th grade education know this already, and unlike say “Saving Private Ryan”, where we know the story but go for the ride because of the action, there just isn’t much action to be found in Kundun.

We meet the 14th Dalai Lama when his folks still call him his given name, which I don’t remember hearing. Once he is chosen, he is immediately taken from his parents for training over the ensuing years to be the spiritual leader of Tibet.

Being a prepubescent leader of a nation has its disadvantages believe it or not, at one point the young Dalai Lama is being briefed on the less than friendly intentions of neighbouring China, being reasonably practical he asks:

“How many soldiers (does Tibet have)?”


“So many! That’s a lot, well we are safe here.”

Of course then China decides that when you are a billion strong “No” doesn’t necessarily mean “No”, they invade and commence an occupation of Tibet, and attempt to influence the people and grease the wheels through manipulating the Dalai Lama, who initially fled for his safety, only to return to face the music and be a figurehead to his people.

According to the film the discussions and dealings between the Chinese and the Dalai Lama were cordial and mostly above board, where again history has not been so kind to the Chinese where the dealings with the Tibetan people are concerned. I am amazed with the access that the Chinese people had that they never killed him, regardless of the backlash from a people that already resented their presence.

As we all now know the Dalai Lama is one of the most revered pacifists on the planet, and unfortunately relations between Tibet and China are still frosty at best. Throughout the entire period of exile which now spans many decades he has maintained that China must leave Tibet but has never suggested violence or aggressive action of any kind. His teachings are followed (more than) fervently by millions and in reality the world would be a far better place if even more people lived a little more like him.

But I am not discussing his life or existence, merely Martin Scorscese’s representation of it, and unfortunately while it is a worthwhile story that deserves telling, if you are aware of the basics it doesn’t bring much more to the table than a Movie of the Week.

Final Rating for the Dalai Lama – 10 / 10. Great bloke. We should all try to be more like him in our daily lives.

Final Rating – 7 / 10. If you don’t know the basics of the 14th Dalai Lama’s life, watch it for the information. If you do it doesn’t bring much more to the table.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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