I have been wanting to watch Pan Nalin's movies for quite some time. I watched a couple of his films this weekend and i must say that both of them were outstanding..
The story of a monk (Tashi, played by Shawn Ku) who, like quite a few of us, tries to answer some 'larger than life' questions. It tries to answer the question - 'What is the path to enlightenment? - is it renunciation of worldly desires or pure love even if it means being wound by a family'. The movies leaves you thinking even after it ends... That is the beauty of it.
The movie is beautifully shot in picturesque Laddakh region of Indian Himalayas. The story is so well executed that you can understand the theme of the movie even without subtitles. In fact, I watched the first half without subtitles and still could understand most of it..
The story line is made of some exquisite moments which are really crucial to the central theme. It is because of these moments that one cannot stop himself/herself from being drawn into the movie. I would not reveal the entire plot but would certainly like to highlight a few of those exquisite moments:
Tashi taken back to the Monastery
Tashi completes his 3 year, 3 month, 3 day exile in a remote cave and is being taken back by fellow monks. It takes a while for Tashi to get back to being himself - But then, it is this exile that makes him question the path followed by monks. The author starts with this theme to set the context right at the beginning itself.
Tashi is sent for a lesson on physical relations
Tashi is sent to a remote cave where an old monk shows him pictures of various positions of intercourse. The same images when seen under a flame turn the individuals into a skeleton.. This gives the message without a single word being spoken..
Tashi quits monk life
Tashi is not focused on his return from exile. He often gives in to his senses and even gets erections a couple of times. These are moments which raise important questions about the life of monks. Tashi cites an event from Buddha's life that throws up a very important question - he talks about Prince Siddhartha renouncing his worldly desires after getting married to a beautiful lady and after having a son. Should one experience this worldly life first before renouncing it is a question that must be on the minds of almost every monk...
Tashi commits adultery
Despite having a beautiful wife (played by Christy Chung) and a very happy family life, Tashi is lured into having an affair. That is precisely the moment when he gets a letter from old monk Apo throwing up the same old questions again.
The rock with a quote
There is a rock with a quote (translated) "How can one prevent a drop from drying up?" - This rock features a couple of times during the movie. It is only at the end that Tashi turns the rock around and to his surprise, finds the answer there.. "By throwing it into the sea" !!! Makes you think...
A classy story excellently executed - there are not many movies like this one...
Actors: Shawn Ku, Christy Chung and Neelesha BaVora
Review of 'Valley of flowers' (2006) follows soon.