Kundun

I see a safe journey, I see a safe return.

Kundun is a 1997 film by Martin Scorsese about Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.

Dalai LamaEdit

  • I will liberate those not liberated. I will release those not released. I will relieve those unrelieved, and set living beings in nirvana. ... Thus by the virtue that has collected through all that I have done may the pain of every living creature be completely cleared away.
  • They have taken away our silence.
    • Upon hearing the propaganda loudspeakers blaring outside the palace monastery.
  • I see a safe journey, I see a safe return.

Mao ZedongEdit

  • Religion is poison.

DialogueEdit

Indian border guard: Are you the Lord Buddha?
Dalai Lama: I believe I am a reflection, like the moon on water. When you see me, and I try to be a good man, you see yourself.

About KundunEdit

  • I read the script and liked its simplicity, the childlike nature of it, that it wasn't a treatise on Buddhism or a historical epic in the usual sense. It's just too much to know about Tibet and China and their relationship over the past fifteen hundred years. That was all incidental. What you really dealt with was the child and the child becoming a young boy and the boy becoming a young man —his spiritual upbringing, and this incredible responsibility which he inherits and how he deals with it on the basis of nonviolence. And the concept of him escaping and taking Tibetan culture and religion with him to the rest of the world.
  • It is about where you arrive. I must say that we had to go from the end back to the beginning, and it was quite a journey for us, too. First of all, Melissa Mathison's writing: we went through fourteen drafts, and we knew we were on the right track when our last draft resembled the first and second drafts more.
We had a leisurely time rewriting the script, and different concepts came up during our working together. I tried to get more historical detail in; for instance, the 13th Dalai Lama was the first to be photographed, so we began with him, showed the photography session. I was getting into the cultural aspects of it. Finally I realized that scaling down everything and keeping it personal would cut away a lot of the unnecessary political intrigues and, much as I admire them, typical elements of historical epics. And so it made it something very simple.
  • I think the only real concrete thing was when I realized that I should probably try to do everything from the child's point of view. Not just low-angled shots or camera movement that's low-angle, but that as the child is growing, everything around him is seen by him, so the audience shouldn't be privy to a lot of information that the boy is not privy to. And when the Dalai Lama is privy to it, it's incomprehensible to him. Like in a family, if the adults are talking and there's a problem, a child can tell. And there's the fear and uncertainty, the parental figures coming and going —for example, Reting.
I wasn't interested in the romantic, emotional view of Tibet, crystallized over the years in Lost Horizon. On “Frontline” last week there was a snide reference to emptyheaded, well-meaning people in Hollywood making films about Tibet, and I really didn't like that. I needed to show that it wasn't Shangri-La, that there were political problems, that monks had guns, there were dungeons and an army. How do you show that without explaining all that was going on between Reting and Taktra, the older teacher? The only way I could do it was to do it through the child's eyes —at least to infer, by the child witnessing these things, and asking, “Where's Reting?” “Well, he's away.” “How long's he going to be gone?” “Oh, about three or four years.” And then he asks later, “Why do monks have guns?” “Yes, in this case they have guns.” In this case they have guns. I liked very much playing on the Kashag wideshot, where they're a little uncomfortable in answering all these questions. There are all kinds of hints in the picture, all the way through. His father was very friendly with Reting.
  • He's having a great time. He prospered well, but he died suddenly. Reting is said to have been very close with the Chinese; that's maybe one of the reasons for finding the boy in Amdo Province, which is practically a Chinese province. They had to make a deal with a Chinese warlord, it cost them a lot of money and took three years to get the kid out of Amdo. There's a lot going on there and we just wanted to imply it, so that those who know the story can say, Fine, it's accurate, and those who don't know could ask questions, and if they're interested, there's a lot of books on it.

External linksEdit