By Jeff Vice
Deseret Morning News
Published: October 4, 2007
MILAREPA — ** — Jamyang Lodro, Orgyen Tobgyal, Kelsang Chukie Tethtong; in Tibetan, with English subtitles; rated PG (violence); see Page W2 for theaters
There are a lot of revenge films that could probably benefit from a more low-key, less bombastic approach. "Milarepa" is not one of them.
Subtitled "Magician, Murderer, Saint," the film retells the story of an 11th-century poet and mystic who remains a hero to many Tibetans. Real-life monks make up most of the cast, and the film was co-written and directed by a Tibetan lama, Neten Chokling.
Despite their best intentions, however (proceeds from its theatrical and DVD release will benefit Tibetan orphans), "Milarepa" is surprisingly flat and unexciting.
Chokling's version of events reveal that an unscrupulous uncle (Gonpo) robbed the title character's widowed mother, Kargyen (Kelsang Chukie Tethtong), of her fortune. Enslaved and nearly penniless, Kargyen swears revenge on her greedy relatives and on her fellow villagers, none of whom will come to the struggling mother's aid. Those harsh experiences embolden young Milarepa (Jamyang Lodro), also known as Thopaga. He even seeks out the services of a sorcerer, Yongten Trogyal (Orgyen Tobgyal). Milarepa is hoping the lama will train him, giving him the power to pay back his uncle's cruelty in kind.
There's a good message here, about the perils of revenge-minded thinking, and the low-to-no-budget production boasts some pretty spectacular scenery. But the direction and performances lack energy. Lodro, who was so winning in the 1999 art-house hit "The Cup," practically sleepwalks his way through the main role.
A pre-closing credits crawl reveals that a sequel is planned for 2009. Hopefully the filmmakers will correct some of these problems before then.
"Milarepa" is rated PG for some strong violent action (violent storms and calamities, as well as violence against women). Running time: 90 minutes.