Year Released: 1999
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 108 minutes
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French filmmaker Valli takes us to one of the most remote corners of the world with “Himalaya,” a staggeringly beautiful film about an untouched culture … and played by a cast of non-actors who bring their characters vividly to life. It’s an epic tale told perfectly, with gorgeous production values and a very compelling story.
The residents of Dolpo, Nepal, depend on their yak caravan to take their salt over the mountains and trade it for grain and other supplies. But as one caravan returns to the village, the people are stunned to hear that their chief has been killed in an accident. His father Tinle (Lhondup) doesn’t want the chieftaincy to transfer to a rival clan, even though its head Karma (Kyap) is a popular leader. But his grandson (Wangiel) is too young to take over, so Tinle clings to power, even travelling to a monastery to convince his younger son (Nyima) to help lead the last caravan before winter sets in. But a serious struggle is brewing between the stubborn old Tinle and the hot-blooded young Karma … and it could not only divide the people but also threaten their lives and their livelihood.
The film captures the life and feel of the region with astonishing intimacy, drawing us into the story with fascinating and engaging characters, and giving us an authentic taste of the culture without all the usual colourful cliches. It helps that Valli has lived with these people for years, understands their life and indeed cast many people to play themselves (including Lhondup, who’s superb, as is everyone else for that matter!). In addition, cinematographers Eric Guichard and Jean-Paul Meurisse give us jaw-dropping visual imagery–both in the intimate detail of each face and in the Himalayan grandeur. Texture, colour, skin, earth, water, sky, snow–all are integral to the story and they fill the screen beautifully with subtle realism and artistry. And on top of the filmmaking excellence we have a narrative that has real power–a struggle between the old and new, between god-fearing lamas and self-reliant upstarts. A real stunner of a film that must be seen on a big screen if possible.
Posted on May 5, 2003 in Reviews by Rich Cline
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