The Tibetans refer to the Dalai Lama as ‘Kundun’, which means ‘The Presence’. He was forced to escape from his native home, Tibet, when communist China invaded and enforced an oppressive regime upon the peaceful nation of Tibet. The Dalai Lama escaped to India in 1959 and has been living in exile in Dharamsala ever since.
User Reviews: "Kundun" is Martin Scorsese’s most underrated film. It’s something quite fantastic to watch such an amazing film about the early years of the Dalai Lama and the plight of Tibetan Buddhists knowing that it comes from a man who has long wrestled with his own religious ghosts (witness the still hotly debated conundrum that is his "Last Temptation of Christ"). With probably only "The Age of Innocence" to compare to in Scorsese’s now hallowed canon, "Kundun" is a breathtaking work of art–visually sumptuous (with beautiful work from cinematographer Roger Deakins), hauntingly transcendental, and deeply symbolic.
As an outsider looking in, Scorsese manages to create an intimate level of detail that someone who lives and breathes Buddhism might have overlooked. Many rituals and practices are presented exactly as they are with no attempts to explain their purpose or translate their meaning to Western culture. This allows them to keep their rich symbolism, which translates perfectly to Scorsese’s visual palette. From the rich colors of meditative sand art to the bright red blood spilled during China’s unlawful occupation of Tibet, everything takes on a deeper meaning that leaves much to the imagination and higher mind.
Wisely, Scorsese follows the same template of Richard Attenborough’s equally resonating Oscar winning epic "Ghandi" by adapting a straight forward approach to his presentation of the Dalai Lama’s most tumultuous years. Except for a few dreamlike vision sequences, he stays mostly out of the man’s head, and instead shows his power through his actions and dedication to his people and the practice of non-violence. "Kundun" is as near perfect a biopic as one can make.