Seven Years in Tibet

October 8th, 1997


Seven Years in Tibet

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Still of Brad Pitt in Seven Years in TibetSeven Years in TibetShannon Tweed at event of Seven Years in TibetSeven Years in TibetBrad Pitt at event of Seven Years in TibetMariah Carey at event of Seven Years in Tibet

True story of Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountain climber who became friends with the Dalai Lama at the time of China's takeover of Tibet.

Release Year: 1997

Rating: 6.8/10 (43,858 voted)

Critic's Score: 55/100

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Stars: Brad Pitt, David Thewlis, BD Wong

After the death of 11 climbers, Austrian Heinrich Harrer (Brad Pitt) decides to add glory to his country and to the German pride by climbing Nanga Parbat in British India, and leaves his expectant wife behind. Egoist and a loner, he does not get along with others on his team - but must bend to their wishes after bad weather threatens them. Then WWII breaks out, they are arrested and lodged in Dehra Dun's P.O.W. Camp. He attempts to break out in vain several times, but finally does succeed along with Peter Aufschnaiter (David Thewlis), and end up in the holy city of Lhasa - a place banned to foreigners. They are provided food and shelter, and Peter ends up marrying a tailor, Pema Lhaki, while Heinrich befriends the Dalai Lama. He meets regularly to satiate the child's curiosity about the world, including Jack the Ripper and 'yellow hair'; in return he is exposed to teachings of Lord Buddha and even constructs a movie theater...

Writers: Heinrich Harrer, Becky Johnston

Brad Pitt - Heinrich Harrer
David Thewlis - Peter Aufschnaiter
BD Wong - Ngawang Jigme
Mako - Kungo Tsarong
Danny Denzongpa - Regent
Victor Wong - Chinese 'Amban'
Ingeborga Dapkunaite - Ingrid Harrer
Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk - Dalai Lama, 14 Years Old
Lhakpa Tsamchoe - Pema Lhaki
Jetsun Pema - Great Mother
Ama Ashe Dongtse - Tashi
Sonam Wangchuk - Dalai Lama, 8 Years Old
Dorjee Tsering - Dalai Lama, 4 Years Old
Ric Young - General Chang Jing Wu
Ngawang Chojor - Lord Chamberlain (as Ven. Ngawang Chojor)

Taglines: At the end of the world his real journey began.


Official Website: Official Site |

Release Date: 8 October 1997

Filming Locations: Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada

Box Office Details

Budget: $70,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $10,066,508 (USA) (12 October 1997) (2103 Screens)

Gross: $93,500,000 (Worldwide) (1 February 1998) (except USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

The film differs slightly from the book in that it glosses over the fact that he was a Nazi and member of the SS before setting off for Tibet. Harrer subsequently acknowledged his Nazi affiliations, calling them a youthful mistake.

Factual errors: (At 1:20:00) A scene depicts communist China stomping into the Holy Land. Unfortunately, the identification of "China" was wrong in the film. (1) The flag shown was for ROC (the short-lived Republic of China, founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, defeated by the communists), which was not the communist China's flag. Communist China's flag is all red with a few yellow stars. The flag shown in the movie is red-white-blue. (2) The Chinese government names, shown more than twice in the movie, said "Republic of China (4 characters)", whereas it should have been "People's Republic of China (7 characters)".

Ngawang Jigme: Hello, my friend. We did what was best for our country, for Tibet.
Heinrich Harrer: On the way to Lhasa I would see Tibetans wearing those jackets. 'Chinese soldiers very nice. Give food, clothes and money. Very nice.' It's strange to me that something so harmless as a jacket can symbolize such a great lie.
Ngawang Jigme: After all these years you still don't understand our Tibetan ways. To return a gift is unforgivable.
Heinrich Harrer: A man who betrays his culture shouldn't preach about its customs. There was a time I would have wished you dead but your shame will be your torture and your torture will be your life. I wish it to be long.

User Review

A moving, well-crafted, and visually breathtaking film

Rating: 9/10

First of all, Seven Years In Tibet is a very aesthetically pleasing film. The snowy Himalayas, the Tibetan villages, and the amazing costumes and religious ceremonies are all filmed beautifully, with rich colours and lighting. The music by John Williams is also excellent, and it's fascinating to hear how it blends with the unusual Tibetan music.

It's not all surface though, there's depth here too. Don't believe the negative comments about Brad Pitt's acting. Admittedly his accent slips a bit in places, but he does a great job as Heinrich, both the unpleasant, arrogant character at the beginning, and the more gentle and wise man that he becomes as the film progresses. His relationship with the young Dalai Lama (a very impressive actor) is an unusual one and refreshingly unsentimental. The film is well edited; scenes are not drawn out any longer than they need to be. As a whole, it is fast paced but also peaceful, tender and moving. You don't get bored but you're not bombarded with pointless action scenes either.

It's a pleasant surprise to see a Hollywood film where women and other cultures aren't treated as objects, and are allowed to be full, complex characters. It could be argued that this film has a Western perspective, but after all, it is adapted from a book written by a European living in Tibet, and intended for Western audiences. It treats the Tibetan culture with a great deal of respect, so I don't really see a problem with that. Similarly, those who have complained that it doesn't tell you enough about the Dalai Lama and too much about Heinrich, ultimately it is Heinrich's story, and that is its strength: that it is one man's tale, and not a political polemic. It gives you a great sense of how people's stories intersect and how the whole world is connected.

Overall, an unusual film, very involving and emotional without sentimentality, with wonderful music and outstanding cinematography. Highly recommended.


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