Himalaya Blu-ray Review
Himalaya is a
critically acclaimed film from director Eric Valli,
which went on to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the
Awards during the original year of release in 1999.
The effort was spotlighted on the Variety top
of the box-office charts for more than 6 consecutive months and it
especially successful film in Europe.
concept of the film was perhaps born when Valli was just
a young boy when he read a book about the Himalaya area and became
by the subject. He traveled to the area in the 80's and had
conversations with the
mountain villagers and became mostly familiar with some of the tribal
of the community both through the chief and the rest of the villagers
life in general solitude with immense challenges, especially when it
surviving during winter. Deciding that this aspect of the world was
exploring in a dramatic film, Valli decided to return to the people he
previously met and worked with them to film something that would
present the world
in which they inhabited.
film is partially based on actual events -- which have
been slightly altered and modified to add dramatic effect and change
of certain character relationships in the basis of the storyline. The
aim of the film seems to be to portray the story of the villagers with
of being a documentary approach. This is even found in the type of
that is presented with a lot of loosely-framed and intimate shots of
the story focuses on.
primary dramatic link of the film became one which told
the story of some core relationships amongst the mountain villagers and
especially the young and contemplative caravanner and the tribe's
maintains a sense of pride throughout many circumstances that cause
the rest of the villagers during their harsh journey.
made over a period of seven months in the Dolpo region
of Nepal, an area rarely seen. Director Valli is best known for his
work as a
photographer for National Geographic in taking photos of some of the
and traversed parts of the world. This skill aided his direction of Himalaya. Unfortunately,
though the film took a long
time to complete, the production was one
which experienced delays and setbacks which brought down filming
which made it a difficult experience in most respects for the
had a big task ahead of himself in making Himalaya.
The crew was filming largely
without experience in an area of the world few ever see or try to live
The budget of the film was also a constraint at times. There was even
that in making the feature with a documentary style, the idea was to
actors who were actually a portion of the real-people who live in the
They wouldn't use actual costumes in dressing them either, but instead
their actual tribal clothing. The goal was authentic storytelling. Yet,
flip-side, many filming constraints limited the time spent perfecting
for the film, and because inexperienced actors were the only cast
this production the performances are uniformly disappointing.
this film received immense acclaim from most critics,
I can't claim to fully understand how that happened to Himalaya.
I do not agree with the general critical assessment this
film received at all. The difficulties the filmmakers faced in mounting
production were quite immense and while some of the results are
worth praising, I could not enjoy watching the film when the acting was
and as close to imperfect as one might imagine from an inexperienced
working in a uncommonly difficult landscape with absolutely no one
had trained acting skills.
film excels largely because of the frequently
breathtaking photography utilized during Himalaya.
Valli was experienced in photographic work with his experiences working
National Geographic and his background immensely helped the film to be
absorbing because of the unique visual experience it offers in
showcasing a beautiful
and uncommon worldview that is barely known to the world.
worth seeing for the unique mountain and tribal showcase that
resulted from the efforts of the filmmakers. This film shares an
of our world history. The film is worth seeing just to experience these
mounted visuals showcasing the results of their travels and journey as
the filmmakers to present a part of our world which is rarely seen. As
attempts to be a narrative drama as well as a visual extravaganza, I
the film from a dramatic standpoint, though.
of the performances had me feeling that interested in
the characters. Making Himalaya a
fully-fledged documentary with interviews and discussions about the way
people live in this uncommon territory would surely have made for a
fascinatingly realized experience, but alas, the film tries to meld
filmmaking with the traditional narrative filmmaking of a dramatic
might usually expect to find. This weakens the effort so much. It makes
film a less successful motion-picture: it's the narrative approach that
caused it to suffer as a fully successful effort.
some might disagree and find more merit in the film
on the dramatic-side, I found it
straining. The spirituality and strength of the film for myself resided
sheer power of exploring the village and Dolpo region of the Nepals and
from the storyline, which is partially based on what happened
previously in the
tribe, but which loses out on being as successfully rendered
by the poorly handled direction of untrained actors with
a script in dramatic need of repair for the film to be as wholly
it could have been.
ultimately disappointing Himalaya is a curious piece
of filmmaking that would have been essential viewing
had it not been for
the unsuccessful approach to making it. As
it stands, something more interesting could have been accomplished with
shorter documentary or travelogue than what was ultimately accomplished
largely forgettable film which is enjoyable mainly for its breathtaking
photography accomplished from a master of the craft.
been restored for its Blu-ray
presentation and the quality of the 1080p transfer is immensely
This is a remarkably high quality transfer which, frankly, surprised me
continually high bit-rates and crisp imagery. The film looks absolutely
beautiful and anyone who considers themselves a fan of the film will be
pleased with the jump from DVD to Blu-ray. For anyone considering a
who is concerned about having a High Definition experience with good
this is certainly nothing to be concerned about as without-a-doubt this
stunning presentation with good color depth and clarity. Kino has
done a splendid job in presenting what is an impressive restoration
Tibetan with English subtitles. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
presentation is not
quite the match of the stunning video presentation but that certainly
make it a slouch. The clarity and vibrancy of the score composed
Coulais is amazing to hear on this release. I loved the score and it's
presentation is magnificent with lossless audio. The surround effects
minimalistic, unfortunately. Dialogue is crisp and easy to understand.
surround design mainly accomplishes presenting the music score with a
are a few interesting
supplemental materials included on this release. To my surprise, I
supplements more interesting than the main feature film itself.
release includes audio
commentary by director Eric Valli, a 26 minute long making-of
an electronic press kit with clips and trailers associated with the
beautiful film to look at visually as it has stunning
photography of areas in this world that are rarely captured on film or
photography. Director Eric Valli is known for his photography work, and
explores that element of his creativity further. While it's also
for what it attempts to do in exploring the tribal lifestyle of those
in the Himalayas and who have had to traverse greatly challenging
did not enjoy how the narrative approach was handled from a script and
performance standpoint. Alas, this makes Himalaya
a film I would mostly just suggest renting to explore its unique
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.