Valley of Flowers

Valley of FlowersIndia, France, Japan, Germany, 2007
aka La Vallée des fleurs

Director: Pan Nalin
Starring: Milind Soman, Mylene Jampanoi, Naseeruddin Shah, Eri
IMDB: 6.7

This epic story of love and karma, a spellbinding collaboration between four countries performed in two languages, is a must-see for lovers of world cinema.

At just over two and half hours long, much of it set in the timeless Himalayas, this is a movie that is the antithesis of Hollywood entertainment, and is fascinating for that very reason. Director Pan Nalin is forging an eastern style of film-making that is almost uniquely his own.



If you've seen his 2001 debut Samsara, then you will know the style I am referring to. This time around however, he's put together a far more complex script infused with the Buddhist principles of karma and reincarnation.

Jalan (played by Milind Soman) is the leader of a band of outlaws robbing caravans on the Silk Road in the early 19th century. After one of his raids, a beautiful woman (Mylene Jampanois) is left behind as the victims escape, and she asks to join him on his travels. Despite the rest of the men objecting (strangely, given her looks), Jalan is plainly intrigued and brings her along anyway.




Seducing her that very night and intending to send her on her way in the morning, he soon finds that he has fallen deeply in love with her. Despite causing discord among the men, she eventually wins them over with her preternatural ability to find rich pickings for them to plunder.

In fact, it soon becomes apparent that she may be more than she seems. As they wander the endless expanse of the Himalayas, they encounter swamis with mystical powers, steal the 'luck' and 'life energy' of unsuspecting peasants, and eventually find the secret to immortality itself.



All the while they are being hunted by Yeti (Naseeruddin Shah), who in the mythology of the region is a being that protects the equilibrium of mother nature. Along the way he treats us to various gems of buddhist philosophy, although 'reality is caused by alcoholic deficiency ... so let's have a drink' may or may not be one of them.

The story concludes in modern day Tokyo, with completion of the karmic cycle.




At a time when it seems like every second Hollywood movie is a remake, its refreshing to experience such a completely unique and fascinating story.

The locations in both Japan and the Himalayas are of course spectacular, as is the cinematography. There are some pretty nifty special effects as well, subtly implemented into the story in a way that doesn't draw attention. The acting is equally impressive, and the two leading ladies - Mylene Jampanois and her Japanese counterpart Eri - are both gorgeous.

Summary

A fascinating and unique story told masterfully, visually spectacular and sure to be a favourite of world cinema aficionados for years to come. It moves at a slow arthouse pace, so is definitely not for anyone looking for a Hollywood popcorn movie!

Rating: 9/10

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