Dir. Neten Chokling. Bhutan, 2005. 96mins.
Whilesomewhat slow-moving at times - although would one want a life-transforming awakeningaccompanied by MTV-style editing'- its stateliness, deep spirituality, gorgeous mountainscenery and transcendent music should make it a big hit on the festival circuit.
Commercial prospects may be abit more limited, since the film-making is somewhat stately at times, even vergingon the old-fashioned. But production values are superb and it's clear from the startthat a lot of money went into the production.
After his wealthy father dies,Thopaga's inheritance is stolen from him by Gyaltsen (Gonpo), an unscrupulousuncle. Kargyen (Tethtong), Thopaga's mother, vows revenge. Selling the last of the family'spossessions, she enrols Thopaga (Lodro)in sorcery school, under the guidance of Yongten Trogyal (Tobgyal), so that he maylearn how to wreak havoc upon the uncle and his family.
Thopaga enlists the elements to crush Gyaltsenand much of the surrounding village during the wedding of his son. Of course, allthat is accomplished is more violence: when the militia sets out to stop Thopaga, he in turn is forced to unleash a huge boulder thatcrushes them all.
Realising that revenge accomplishesnothing, Thopaga retires to aBuddhist monastery, from which he sets out on the true path toward inner peace.
From the producer of The Cup - director NetenChokling also appeared in that film, as did lead Jamyang Lodro - Milarepa is a firstclass production all the way, and the acting is top-notch, even when performed bynon-professionals (it was shot in India using Tibetan locals).
The historical props are alsothoroughly convincing, and viewers will feel that they've gained some sense of Tibetanhistory and culture.
Kelsang Chukie Terhong,who plays Thopanga's mother, sings some of the film'shaunting songs, while others are sung by Tibetan nun AniChoying Drolma. All of thesecharming details go some way toward compensating for the earnest, sometimes overlypicturesque sluggishness at the centre of the work.
Shining Moon Productions
Tenzing Choyang Gyari
Kelsang Chukie Tethtong