Tibetan epic leaves viewer longing for the rest of the story

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, November 1, 2007 5:16pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Tibetans have become an increasingly busy force in filmmaking, albeit largely in enforced exile. Most of the movies made by these Tibetans have a spectacular sense of landscape, not surprisingly.

The spiritual aspects haven’t been neglected, either, and “Milarepa: Magician, Murderer, Saint,” combines these elements. This movie, which tells the story of one of Tibet’s famed holy figures, was actually directed by and cast with Buddhist monks.

To be truthful, the movie ought to be called “Milarepa, The Adventure Begins,” because it tells half the story. The second part of the saga, scheduled for release next year, will presumably get into the sainthood bit.

The story is set in the 11th century, when Milarepa’s family is cheated out of its inheritance by a conniving relative. As Milarepa grows to manhood, his desire for revenge increases.

His solution is to become a great sorcerer, acquiring powers that will allow him to destroy his cruel uncle. Here, the film enters the realm of the sword ‘n’ sorcery picture, complete with special effects and digital trickery.

Maybe I’ve seen too many Buddhist-themed movies, but the action sequences are somewhat surprising, given the usual contemplative bent of this kind of subject matter.

It’s not bad, but it feels a little stiff, like biblical stories done for television. It doesn’t have the wonderfully earthy humor of “The Cup,” a previous delight with a religious theme, also directed by a Tibetan monk.

It does have a couple of the actors from “The Cup,” Jamyang Lodro and Orgyen Tobgyal, both of whom are also monks (in India, where they live as Tibetan exiles).

“Milarepa” was shot in India, near the Tibetan border. The visuals are stunning, providing a fittingly background for the epic tale.

And yet, it’s only half an epic. Maybe when the two parts of “Milarepa” can be watched together on DVD one day, the whole story will takes its proper place. But I couldn’t help feeling short-changed.

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