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<-Back to WTN Archives Kundun captivates - Martin Scorsese's Kundun is a history lesson
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World Tibet Network News

Friday, January 30, 1998

2. Kundun captivates - Martin Scorsese's Kundun is a history lesson

CALGARY, Friday, January 30, 1998, (Calgary Sun)

It tells the story of Kundun, the 14th Dalai Lama or spiritual leader of
Tibetan Buddhism, from his discovery at age 3 in a tiny village on Tibet's
border with China to his forced exile 22 years later in India.

We've all studied history in school, so we know that it either comes alive in
the hands of a great teacher or drones into oblivion.

Scorsese is a master storyteller, so his history lesson jumps off the screen.
Kundun becomes one of the most compelling pages torn from any history book in
a long time. It plays like a grand Chinese opera.

Scorsese has chosen a careful, studied pace to tell this quiet story of a
humble but great spiritual leader.

He refuses to rush the action but never lingers long enough for it to become

Kundun's greatest accomplishment is that it is ultimately so spiritual and
inspiring, without ever sacrificing its entertainment value.

It helps the story itself is so compelling.

Buddhism teaches reincarnation, so the early scenes in which the young child
asserts his divinity are played for gentle humor.

He is as spoiled, demanding and scheming as any child except that he is
destined to be the spiritual and political leader of Tibet, so he is treated
with reverence.

The scenes in which Kundun is distracted from prayer by a rat sipping from a
golden chalice or when he plays with the fish in the palace ponds are
endearing and tender.

Ultimately, these scenes of serenity are contrasted with the devastation
Tibet suffered at the hands of the Chinese when they decided to reclaim the
country as a province in 1950.

The ponds run red with blood and bodies of Kundun's monks litter the palace

Scorsese does not play even these scenes for sensationalism, but instead
follows the Buddhist philosophy of nonviolence, presenting them in a
dream-like fashion, allowing the horror to register intellectually rather
than assault the viewer.

Kundun has been condemned by the Chinese government and for good reason. It
is a subtle, damning portrayal of arrogance, intolerance and religious

The greatest travesty is how Hollywood has ignored Kundun. It should be
trumpeted along with Titanic and Amistad for the major writing, directing and
design awards. Kundun is a great film made
by a master film-maker.

Articles in this Issue:
  1. Report: China an 'authoritarian state'
  2. Kundun captivates - Martin Scorsese's Kundun is a history lesson
  3. Kundun -- The amazing story of the fourteenth Dalai Lama The amazing story
  4. Kundun -- The amazing story of the fourteenth Dalai Lama The passion of Martin Scorsese

Other articles this month - WTN Index - Mail the WTN-Editors

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