Just short of great heights in Himalaya

By Nicole Kobie

The fine line differentiating a good movie from a great one is harder to cross than a mountain range. In Himalaya, the latter feat is achieved while the former is not.

A good movie is simply entertaining; it’s a break from the daily grind. It’s enjoyable to watch, but not groundbreaking or thought-provoking. Many movies fit this category. Great movies, however, make an argument, offer a new observation and different perspective on an idea or take an in-depth study of a character. Great movies take effort to watch; they spark intelligent thought. They keep you thinking once the film is finished and rewound, while lesser movies just fade away to everyday tasks.

Himalaya should have been a great movie, but never manages to cross the pass. It walks straight up, takes a look around, and then stays right where it is: on the side of worth watching, but not worth remembering. Himalaya captivates the senses, but not the emotions or the mind.

This epic film, complete with wide sweeping shots of snow, rock and sky, tells the story of a seasonal yak trek taken by a Tibetan tribe to trade salt for grain. This year, the journey was to be guided by the chief’s eldest son, but he’s killed in an accident mere weeks before departure. A man named Karma steps up to take his place.

However skilled and experienced Karma is, Chief Tinle refuses to let him lead the caravan, blaming him for the deadly accident. So, two caravans, one led by each man, set forth. Both men are stubborn, and refuse to listen to each other, whether they are right or not. Two new story threads are woven in when Karma’s focus turns to Tinle’s now widowed daughter-in-law and grandson, and when Tinle recruits his second son, a monk, as a guide.

The film is beautifully shot, which isn’t a surprise considering Director Eric Valli’s previous training is solely in photographing and filming this mountainous area. His skill is obvious throughout Himalaya. The scenes are so perfectly shot that the stark landscape is incredibly beautiful.

This is Valli’s first film with a script, though with Himalaya this lack of experience seems to work well. Valli may have little directing experience, but his cast has absolutely no acting experience. It’s undoubtedly hard to find one Tibetan actor, let alone a dozen, in Hollywood. In this movie, however, the roles are more suited to subtle, weak performances than show-stopping, scene-stealers.

Overall, Himalaya is enjoyable. Watching it is a relaxing, captivating journey. However, once the credits start to roll, your thoughts will turn to other things–like your laundry.

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