Making the Grades
Kundun presents a new meaning to the term "mixed marriage." Take Martin Scorsese, creator of violent films like Casino and the controversial epic The Last Temptation Of Christ and have him direct a script by Melissa Mathison who penned E.T. and Indian In The Cupboard. Amazingly, the resulting film is a peace promoting portrait of a religious leader.
The script begins in the 1930's during the search for the fourteenth Dalai Lama, spiritual and political leader of Tibet. Believing that he is a literal reincarnated spirit of the previous Dalai Lamas, a young two year old boy is put to the test. A cute little Tibetan, Tenzin Yeshi Paichang, plays the candidate who is presented with a table of objects. Some belonged to the last Dalai Lama, some did not. The boy chooses correctly, picking up the former leader's possessions and shouting, "Mine! Mine! Mine!"
As this boy grows older and wiser, viewers must carefully watch his every action in order to get a glimpse of who this person really is. Certainly his peaceful nature sets a great example. Even when he meets with Chinese communist leader Mao Tse Tung, who tells him "Religion is the opiate of the people. It's poison," he merely stares at Mao's polished western shoes. Not a word of rebuttal is offered.In that light, the PG-13 rating may be misleading. Very brief but justified violent scenes are depicted, usually in nightmares and prophetic visions. The other concern to parents is a sequence that I assume is a depiction of Tibetan tradition, where the body of the deceased Dalai Lama's father is cut apart to feed waiting vultures. We don't see the removal of the arm, but we do see it raised up with a bloody stump.
Kundun should be appropriate for most teens, but may seem slow and uneventful even with its incredible images and fantastic musical score. To pique their interest, try investigating www.tibet.com on the Internet for more information on the plight of the Tibetans and the incredible injustices that continue today while under China's rule.