Milarepa Movie Review
Born into relative wealth (the best tent in the village), Milarepa (Jamyang Lodro) and his mother suffer terribly when his beloved father dies and greedy relatives steal the family's wealth, leaving the young boy with no inheritance. By the time he's a teen, he's living in despair, helping his mother scratch a small barley harvest out of a useless field. Meanwhile, his gambling uncle has squandered all the money, his evil aunt is adorned in jewels that belong to him, and none of the other villagers choose to come to their aid.
Desiring revenge, Milarepa's mother sends him off to learn sorcery so he can come back and use magic to punish all those who have done them wrong. Fail, she tells him, and I'll kill myself in front of you. Talk about pressure. So off he goes over gorgeous mountains and through lush valleys, with angry villagers in pursuit, to find the best sorcerer around. When he does, it takes only a short time for him to learn how to make stones levitate and do other tricks, none of which, however, are powerful enough for his purposes of revenge.
A trip to a second mystic gets him what he needs, and soon he's able to summon the power of a thunderstorm and send homicidal lightning crashing down on his village, killing 35 people. Milarepa's mother is satisfied, but seeing the carnage with his own eyes, he is filled with crushing remorse and heads off again to seek forgiveness and enlightenment. His ultimate success (to be chronicled in part two) will make him famous for centuries.
Bhutanese writer/director Neten Chokling must feel a heavy responsibility to tell this story right, and he chooses to do so in an engagingly minimalist way. There are only a few extras, a few tents, and about eight horses. Special effects are kept to a minimum, a good idea since those he does use are not up to current standards. Even star Jamyang Lodro plays it cool. His Milarepa is a rather blank-faced character, generally stunned by all that's happening to him and definitely not the chatty type.
DVD Note: An informative documentary features noted Tibet scholar Robert Thurman (Uma's dad!) and several other well-known Buddhism experts describing Milarepa's life and writings and explaining their importance to Tibetan culture. Very informative.
Aka Milarepa: Magician, Murderer, Saint.
I climbed every mountain, now what?