Himalaya is the second film that I've seen this
year where the characters speak in Tibetan with subtitles. This is
two more films than I had seen in my whole life previously. The first
was The Cup which is a delightful
film about World-Cup crazy Buddhist monks.
Himalaya is a much more
traditional story which was nominated for an Oscar last year for Best Foreign
Film. It is set in a village which survives by trading salt
which the villagers must carry over the mountains on the backs of their
Yaks. As the film begins, the son of the old chief of the village
has been killed and so there is no one to lead the herd in the dangerous
trek. The old chief clashes with another young man who thinks he
should be the leader. The young man sets off with most of the Yaks
and the younger men. The Chief waits for the most propitious day
for their departure as decreed by the monks and then sets off in pursuit
with his young grandson, the son's widow and some old superstitious men.
The trek over the mountains is very beautiful and looks like an IMAX film.
In fact, the director, Eric Valli, used to make documentaries for National
Geographic. But as the film and the trek go on and on, you will feel
like you are on the trek yourself, just trying to make it to the ending
credits. While you may be transfixed by the scenery, the story itself,
is very pedestrian. Unlike The
Cup, where the characters came alive in their Buddhist monastery, in
we are watching something much more stylized. As the Yaks teetered
on the edge of precipices and blizzards threaten the hardy villagers, I
was not caught up in the story or its characters.
the previous films by the director, plays like a documentary. But
it is interesting to see the lives of these people high in the Himalayas
untouched by the outside world. And the cinematography is spectacular.
But if you haven't seen it, rent The
Cup and see a wonderful film.