LAS 410 Buddhist Traditions of Tibet and the Himalayas
11 September 2013
The film Kundun tells the story of the fourteenth Dalai Lama’s first twenty four years with the use of symbolism and cinematic prowess that can only be described as spellbinding. The film provides insight into Martin Scorsese’s more sensitive style of directing without losing any of his incredible talent at weaving a story one can’t help but get lost in.
The movie begins with a picture of a detailed sand sculpture that leads into the Dalai Lama at age two with his family being disobedient in their family home on the border of China and Tibet. Scorsese could have used these images of the young Dalai Lama misbehaving as a way to show that he was still a human with human faults. It is interesting that Scorsese chose to begin the film with the young Dalai Lama at his home near the Chinese border and conclude the film with him crossing the Indian border being forced out by the Chinese. Scorsese tells the story of a young boy forced to grow up with great responsibility to provide wisdom and maintain righteousness and purity in a period of time where there was formidable conflict brewing between China and its neighbors. While the film does provide some valuable insight into the ways of Buddhism while also shedding light on the everlasting war between religion and politics, it was not Scorsese’s goal to educate his viewers on the religion or to take a side in the battle between church and state. Rather, he wanted to bring the disparity between upholding ancient traditions and ceremony with the rapidly changing “progressive” world to light and cause viewers to reflect on their own views concerning “progression” and culture. Throughout the film there were a few scenes that stood out in my mind. One being the scene where Kundun asks his advisors what to do when the Chinese invaded Tibet, he says, “What can I do? I’m only a boy.” They respond by telling him that he is the...
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