The chief virtue of Seven Years in Tibet
is the scope of the film and the magnificent photography. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud has
traveled snow covered mountains before with the IMAX presentation, Wings of Courage.
That seems like it was practice run for the perfection of the snow work here. I think the
personal journeys are less successful and the film cannot recover from so severe a flaw.
Heinrich Harrer, the would-be hero of the piece, is too flawed and there never seems a
reason for him to change. It's almost as if the filmmakers depended on Brad Pitt's good
looks to make him sympathetic. It just doesn't seem to work.
Pitt plays Harrer with Austrian
ascent that's acceptable, but his performance lacks nuance. If the character is really
supposed to change, we never sense it from the performance, only from the text, and that's
not enough. Playing alongside Pitt, David Thewlis is as solid as the Lhasa foundations
playing mountain climber Peter Aufschnaiter. The casting of the key Tibetan characters is
very special. Jamyang and Sonam Wangchuk, brothers and sons of a Bhutan diplomat, with no
acting experience, play the young Dalai Lama at various ages. And the Dalai Lama's sister,
Jetsun Pema, plays his mother in the film. Lhakpa Tsamchoe, who works for the Tibet Youth
Congress, brings a beautiful innocence to the role of the woman who befriends the two
foreigners and marries Aufschnaiter.