Seven Years In Tibet

7.12 h 16 min1997X-RayPG-13
Heinrich Harrer is an Austrian mountaineer in search of fame and glory. His 1939 adventure takes him to Tibet where the Dalai Lama teaches him selflessness.
Jean-Jacques Annaud
Brad PittDavid ThewlisLhapka Tsamchoe
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
B.D. WongJamyang Wangchuk
Jean-Jacques AnnaudIain SmithJohn Williams
TriStar Pictures
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Content advisory
Smokingfoul languageviolence
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4.6 out of 5 stars

2531 global ratings

  1. 79% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 13% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 5% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 2% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 2% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Matthew D'SouzaReviewed in the United States on September 30, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Trip to Tibet with Brad Pitt
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Seven Years in Tibet (1997) is a beautiful commemoration to those that died in Tibet during China's invasion of the country. It is equal parts a character study of Brad Pitt's Austrian mountain climber that learns to care about others while stranded in Tibet, while also chronicling the transition in Tibet to China's ruling power. I think it makes for a nice drama about humanity as well as a historical war dramatization. Jean-Jacques Annaud directs Seven Years in Tibet with a clever eye for beautiful sets, colorful costumes, panning shots, and intimate framing for each scene.

I must mention John Williams' beautiful score that takes into account Tibet's music and culture into his composition. Williams sets the tone and atmosphere with carefully subtle musical cues throughout Seven Years in Tibet.

Brad Pitt's performance is quite touching with a passable Austrian accent. Pitt plays the part of Heinrich Harrer, who befriends a young Dalai Lama. I thought his portrayal seemed very fair as the man is very cruel, selfish, and dismissive, then learns to understand other cultures and people over time. Pitt gave a nice display of empathetic acting in his Seven Years in Tibet role.

David Thewlis, Mako, B.D. Wong, and especially Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuck give excellent supporting roles in Seven Years in Tibet. They demonstrate subtle performances with an attention to detail that I appreciated. Thewlis is patient and thoughtful as Harrer's friend. Mako is kindly and knowledgeable. B.D. Wong is respectful and underhanded as the story goes along. Then, Wangchuck is fascinating as the young Dalai Lama. He is captivating in his serious nature and playful spirit.

I think Seven Years in Tibet got unfairly panned. This is a thoughtful and important film that depicts Tibet like you've never seen it before. I hope audiences give it another chance.
24 people found this helpful
Christina ReynoldsReviewed in the United States on January 26, 2021
3.0 out of 5 stars
A stew of conceptual honesty
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My rating is more of a 3.5.
Thanks for reading!

Seven Years in Tibet is a 1997 American biographical war drama film based on the 1952 book of the same name. The book was written by Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer on his experiences in Tibet between 1939 and 1951 during World War II, the interim period, and the Chinese People's Liberation Army's invasion of Tibet in 1950.

As to be expected, much of Harrers’ experience as a mountaineer and eventual residency in Tibet is shaped by his understanding and willingness to interact with customs and individuals that are initially foreign to him; depicting this on film can be risky, however, as it lends to differing levels of creative decisions that can be potentially offensive or harmful. Varying pleasantries and cultural elements (such as language) are met with some level of confusion or uncertainty - best illustrated in scenes where Harrer is hearing a language he cannot understand and it isn’t translated even for audience members so as to evoke empathy - but it is never paired with actions or dialogue that is otherwise dehumanizing or indicative of a metaphorically unwavering pillar of ethnocentrism. At varying points Heinrich acts with what could be best labeled as a “tamed audacity”, and this serves as a consistent reminder to the audience of the overarching circumstance involving his presence in this area and his potential for change or growth; this chasm of change could have been made larger through a number of means so as to bolster the profound effect seven years in Tibet has on Harrer (IE: presenting him as being hesitant or even disapproving of Tibetan customs), but the avoidance of needless exaggeration in this regard is easily appreciated.
(Super fun fact: there is a scene where Harrer is initially greeted by a horde of Tibetan individuals who stick their tongue out at him. This has been a traditional greeting as of the 9th century, and is used as a way of letting people know you are not the reincarnation of an unpopular king called Lang Darma - known largely for having a black tongue)

Now, where ‘SYIT’ 𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒓𝒕𝒔 to get hairy is in its representation of the enclosed political and war-related context that is essential in illustrating the changes made internally by Harrer (hold that thought). To its credit ‘FYIT’ is accurate in its portrayal of Tibet falling to the totalitarian control of China, but this is grossly simplified as a battle that literally takes approximately 3-5 minutes of screen time. Historical records not only show that this battle occurred over the course of 11 days, but Tibetan forces were significantly more developed in regards to the technology used to defend themselves; as early as 1902 (𝒅𝒆𝒄𝒂𝒅𝒆𝒔 𝒃𝒆𝒇𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒔 𝒑𝒐𝒓𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒚𝒆𝒅 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒇𝒊𝒍𝒎) the Tibetan army was using flintlock rifles as a primary source of protection to fight during the British Younghusband invasion, but in ‘SYIT’ they are reduced to using only bows and arrows against an overwhelmingly modern Chinese army.
The depiction of the British prison camp in India also strays far from Harrer’s description of it in his memoir - albeit the exaggeration being taken in a completely different direction. Don't get me wrong: this imprisonment was certainly no walk in the park, but there is very little mention of violence being used to force prisoners in to a state of coercion or submission; alternatively, and perhaps surprisingly, it is food shortages and other forms of maltreatment related to strategic neglect that were implemented most often.

𝓑𝓾𝓽 𝔀𝓪𝓲𝓽! 𝓣𝓱𝓮𝓻𝓮'𝓼 𝓶𝓸𝓻𝓮!
Besides Harrer being referred to as a “distinguished member of the National Soclalist Party’ very little is done to elaborate on this membership outside of what could now be frivolously dismissed as blind nationalistic pride.
This actually isn’t a coincidence, and is mostly due to how Harrer speaks about himself and his background in his memoir (which is actually very little at all). In fact, Harrer has been mostly quiet about his Nazi past and as recently as the summer of 1997 released a statement:
“𝑴𝒚 𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒔𝒐𝒏𝒂𝒍 𝒑𝒐𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒍 𝒑𝒉𝒊𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒐𝒑𝒉𝒚 𝒈𝒓𝒆𝒘 𝒐𝒖𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒎𝒚 𝒍𝒊𝒇𝒆 𝒊𝒏 𝑻𝒊𝒃𝒆𝒕...𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒊𝒕 𝒑𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒆𝒔 𝒈𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒕 𝒆𝒎𝒑𝒉𝒂𝒔𝒊𝒔 𝒐𝒏 𝒉𝒖𝒎𝒂𝒏 𝒍𝒊𝒇𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒉𝒖𝒎𝒂𝒏 𝒅𝒊𝒈𝒏𝒊𝒕𝒚...𝒊𝒕 𝒊𝒔 𝒂 𝒑𝒉𝒊𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒐𝒑𝒉𝒚 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒍𝒆𝒂𝒅𝒔 𝒎𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒎𝒏 𝒂𝒔 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒐𝒏𝒈𝒍𝒚 𝒂𝒔 𝒑𝒐𝒔𝒔𝒊𝒃𝒍𝒚 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒉𝒐𝒓𝒓𝒊𝒃𝒍𝒆 𝒄𝒓𝒊𝒎𝒆𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑵𝒂𝒛𝒊 𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒐𝒅.”
Furthermore, personal losses and elements of his life that could make him a would-be villain (IE: “abandoning” his pregnant wife to go mountain climbing, which did actually happen) are speculated as being used to emphasize how better of a person he becomes through his various interactions with the Dalai Lama as both a mentor and a acquaintance over the period of 7 years. It is unfortunate that some of these exaggerations are blissfully hopeful - as, spoiler alert, Harrer’s relationship with his son in real life never developed much beyond a point of neutrality (or, at least without conflict) - but they are a reflection and a result of vicariously creative licensing.
Does this make the representation of Harrer in ‘SYIT’ largely inaccurate?
It doesn’t depend on who we ask, but instead depends on when we are looking. Harrer has certainly bemoaned the Chinese takeover that is shown in this film, but voice-overs indicating comparisons made to his previously held beliefs are nowhere to be found in the source material from which this is based. It is likely that events and his friendship with the Dalai Lama 𝒂𝒇𝒕𝒆𝒓 the events in this film are what largely influence the portrayal of Harrer in this adaptation of his work and it ultimately captures the sentiment and feel of his memoir through what is otherwise an optimistic lens of foresight.

This change in addition to others like the ones briefly described above are justified as providing various climatic sources of tension and relaxation so as to do away with explaining the complexity of certain decisions being made over a larger period of time than can be thoroughly composed in the span of two hours - and while this is easily understood or condoned as a concise form of storytelling, and many ways it is equally neglectful.

‘Seven Years In Tibet’ is a stew of conceptual honesty despite being seasoned with deceit in frivolously rationed amounts.
Regardless, it is embellished with a flavorful set of performances and cinematography that make it a palatable and recommendable experience; regrettably, however, it is also largely a forgettable one.
4 people found this helpful
Reazin Reviewed in the United States on March 6, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
A must see classic
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I love this movie even tho I have to say the German version is better. The English voice over is a bit annoying at times, but doesn't change the awesome story. Great movie when you're trying to finish a knitting or crochet project or just simply like long movies.
5 people found this helpful
MasakaReviewed in the United States on July 17, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Timeless film and story
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I've always loved this movie and always will. Brad Pitt doesn't get to have the girl in this one. Great acting, beautiful scenery and thought-provoking story. Ten stars out of a possible five.
13 people found this helpful
JJRReviewed in the United States on February 2, 2019
1.0 out of 5 stars
Movie great - Movie showing format was corrupted and terrible!!
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We paid to watch this old movie. Every few minutes the scene would black out, pause, then pick up. The constant interruptions meant that the captions were always ahead of the dialogue the characters were saying. This sucks! Amazon, what did you do to this movie? We endured because we wanted to see the story, but the data delivery was horrible! None of the other movies were delivered like this so this movie is corrupted and still is for sale. Bad business.
7 people found this helpful
SheilaReviewed in the United States on October 31, 2016
4.0 out of 5 stars
Ok, But Read the Book
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How many times have you heard this: it is not as good as the book. As is usually the case with books made into movies, it omits or underplays some parts. The book gave me a glimpse into Tibet before the Chinese came in; the movie lost a lot of that. The movie also seemed more obviously political, though from what I have heard the Dali Lama approves. If you like the movie, I strongly recommend you read the book.
18 people found this helpful
JaclynReviewed in the United States on February 10, 2021
3.0 out of 5 stars
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Two stars are for the pretty scenery, and one star is for Brad Pitt's face. Other than that... I'm not excited about this film. For those of you who read (and loved) the book, don't expect this interpretation to be anything close to the autobiographical text you enjoyed. The movie adds some unnecessary drama, and also hurries to Tibet so that there is more time spent with the young Dalai Lama (in the book, this is actually a very brief portion of the story.)

Anyway, my friend and I could hardly get through the film.
Mystic MirafloresReviewed in the United States on February 9, 2016
4.0 out of 5 stars
Fascinating movie which covered many momentous historical events;but Brad Pitt didn't age a bit during the 7 years!
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I truly enjoyed this movie as it covered many momentous events in history, from WWII to the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The scenes in Tibet itself were gorgeous, with wonderful costumes. It was interesting to watch Henrich change from an arrogant man to a humble one. His mentorship of and friendship with the young Dalai Lama was heartwarming. In the end, I was happy to see that Henrich's own son accepted him and even took up mountain climbing too. What I didn't find very believable is that Brad Pitt (and David Thewlis, for that matter) didn't age a bit during those years in the prison camp AND the seven years in Tibet. The make-up artists should have made them age realistically. (Also living in a dry climate will also speed the aging process along.) At the end of the movie, Henrich didn't seem old enough to have a teenage son!
9 people found this helpful
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