|© 2010 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
It seemed almost a cosmic joke that Martin Scorsese, a director who has
fashioned a career making films about violent people (i.e., Raging Bull,
GoodFellas) decided to film the life story of the Dalai Lama, the most famous
proponent of non-violence. But one must remember that Scorsese has also
given the world the elegant if soporific The Age of Innocence and the
controversial but well-intentioned Biblical epic The Last Temptation of Christ.
When one considers the latter, it seems inevitable that the director would be
the right choice to helm this biopic.
Working with screenwriter Melissa Mathison, Scorsese has fashioned
Kundun, an aural and visual feast that also functions as a fine biography of
the Dalai Lama. From the opening shots, the audience is transported to a world
that is as once foreign and yet accessible. Following the outline of the life of
the 14th spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, Kundun proves to be an
informative and interesting journey that is well-cast with actors mostly
unfamiliar to American audiences. While the performers carry the story, the
real stars of this film are the technicians: Roger Deakins' superlative
cinematography; production and costume designer Dante Ferretti; and editor
Thelma Schoonmaker. Composer Philip Glass' score also adds the aural
enjoyment as well as providing the appropriate tension to the story.
If the film has a fault, it is a relatively minor quibble: the film's
resolution. There are a number of false endings, several of which seemingly
would be an appropriate place to stop the story but Mathison and Scorsese
always have more to tell. When the film finally comes to its conclusion, it
seems almost anti-climatic.
But if one overlooks that flaw, Kundun has so much to offer. The story of a
man of peace who is forced to flee his homeland for a life in exile.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violent images
Running time: 134 mins.