The Tibetan Book of the Dead (or the Bardo Thodol) is a text (translated in the 8th century A.D.) that is traditionally read aloud to the dying to help them attain liberation. It is said to guide a person from the moment of death to recognize their true nature, free their consciousness and attain liberation.
This DVD has two 45 minute-long documentaries on the importance of the book and the rituals done for centuries by Tibetan Buddhists with regards to death.
The first documentary titled A Way of Life takes place in Ladakhi northern India. It is primarily an introduction to the book and gives us an example as it follows a lama who goes to read the scripture of the Bardo Thodol in the presence of an elder who has passed away. The documentary is rather rudimentary but does give a good inside view of life and religion in that part of the world. It also features a brief interview with the Dalai Lama.
The second documentary is titled The Great Liberation and follows an elder lama and his young apprentice to one of the nearby villages where a middle-aged man is dying. There they read the Bardo Thodol with the family all around. This documentary is a lot more stylized than the first. It includes animation and somewhat questionable point-of-view shots recreating the 'after death' experience in the presence of the mourning family. But the film does include a lot of information on the concepts of death in Buddhist culture.
Both documentaries are directed by a team of directors; Hiroaki Mota, Yukari Hayashi and Barrie Angus McLean. Both are also narrated by Leonard Cohen with a new age score by Toshiyuki Honda. Both films are co-produced by Japan, France and Canada.
How does it Look?
Both documentaries are shot in video and look excellent. The quality is very good and the images are quite sharp and clean.
How does it Sound?
The audio is presented in mono. Both short films have a laid back new age score, which sounds fine.
The only extras are web links.
This DVD features two short documentaries which give a good introduction to The Tibetan Book of the Dead and particularly the rituals as they are practiced in Tibet – or at least by the exiled Tibetan Buddhist lamas in northern India. Neither of the documentaries are award winning or significant in and of themselves but they are full of information about Buddhism and the Bardo Thodol and are recommended for those interested in the subject.