Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Little Buddha


Little Buddha; Drama, Italy/ France/ UK/ Liechtenstein, 1993; D: Bernardo Bertolucci, S: Alex Wiesendanger, Bridget Fonda, Ruocheng Ying, Chris Isaak, Keanu Reeves

Tibetan monks led by Lama Norbu arrive to Seattle because they think that the great Buddhist teacher Lama Dorje might have been reincarnated as boy Jesse. Norbu makes friends with Jesse's mother Lisa, but her husband Dean is slightly irritated by the monks. Though he changes his mind and follows them to Bhutan. It turns out Dorje reincarnated himself into Jesse, Raju and girl Gita...The story of Siddhartha: he grew up as a Hindu prince, surrounded only by young and beautiful people, until he discovered the sick and the old and was so shocked he decided to free humanity from the course of suffering. He went to the forest and meditated as an ascetic, until he realized one must live through "the middle", without the extremes of luxury and deprivation. He achieved enlightenment.

How many movies are there about Jesus Christ? Instinctively, numerous viewers would immediately estimate around a thousand of them. But how many movies are there about another prophet, Buddha? They are a rarity. Director Bernardo Bertolucci attempted to depict such in the minimalistic-quiet adventure biopic "Little Buddha" which didn't find its way to the mainstream. Untypically, Bertolucci crafted a story completely deprived of his trademark Communist views and delivered a completely politically neutral film with an excellent Keanu Reeves in the role of the prophet and opulent realms of costumes and colors. The main damage to "Little Buddha" is caused by the clumsy double story that seems uneven: the Buddha story is fascinating, though ascetic, but the modern story set in Seattle is overstretched and heavy handed in such a way that it forces itself in the foreground and encapsulates around 65 % of running time - which just seem as distracting from the main "subplot" story. Some of the depictions of the Buddha myth, like when a cobra appears behind the prophet and places its head above him to protect him from the rain as an umbrella, are unintentionally comical, yet the majority is presented with sophistication, like the scene which depicts him meditating bellow a tree while demon Mara sends fire and tidal waves in the background, though it's still more a standard film and less a unique view into human spirituality and enlightenment.

Grade:++

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