The true story of Heinrich Harrer, a former Nazi who became
friends with the Dalai Lama during the Chinese takeover of Tibet.
Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud
Written by Becky Johnston
Starring Brad Pitt, David Thewlis, BD Wong, Mako, Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk, Danny Denzongpa, Ingeborga Dapkunaite
Based on the book by Heinrich Harrer
I was apprehensive about this movie for one specific reason. I felt the movie was going to gloss over the fact that Henrich Harrer was a Nazi. Not just a Nazi, but a sergeant in the SS. Not exactly easy to endear the audience to our hero. And the film does touch on this at the beginning, when we see Harrer try to avoid being associated with the Nazi party on film. Harrer would renounce the party in his memoir, saying his involvement was a mistake. That, combined with the fact that he was not personally responsible for any of the Nazis' atrocities, won me over enough to give the film a chance. And it was pretty good, despite Brad Pitt's atrocious Austrian accent.
Heinrich Harrer (Pitt) joined an expedition to climb Nanga Parbat, a giant mountain in Asia. He did this to get away from his pregnant wife and a baby he didn't want. So, already, we've got a Nazi afraid of commitment who abandoned his wife and son. You may be asking yourself, "How in the hell are we ever gonna like this guy?" Well, the movie may surprise you. After getting captured by British forces because, while they were away, World War II started, they end up in a P.O.W. camp. Heinrich escapes, winds up in Tibet, learns the value of human life, and befriends the Dalai Lama (Wangchuk), who was just a small boy at the time. Then, Communist China invades Tibet, and Heinrich tries to convince his friend to flee, but he will not. The film is a bit of a roller coaster in regards to plot, but the characters and history make the film worthwhile.
Seven Years in Tibet won't rank among Brad Pitt's best performances or films, but it's a decent watch for history buffs who want to know more about a Nazi who renounced Hitler and effectively became a Buddhist. At the very least, that's a story worth telling.