Enlightenments: The Interpretation of Tibetan Buddhism on Screen

  • Author(s): Andronika M. Martonova
  • When: 2016-01
  • Where: Journal of Religion & Film
  • The Tibet Buddhist tradition is a specific system for a vertical and horizontal transmission of the culture of one generation to the next. This transmission is realized through a relevant training or initiation. The holy text has an absolute value, while its further hermeneutic development in the way of interpretations and comments is a priori viewed as secondary, complementary and commenting. The cinema art is a kind of modern, interpretative commentary of Buddhism. Through the audio-visual media the religious transmissions have been delivered, transformed and incorporated in new forms, utilizing the semiotic power of the cinema language. The proposed paper examines three very different films which articulate various views of Tibetan Buddhism, its sacral continuum, symbolism, and being on the screen. In these case studies the interpretation of religious narrative is determinate as a process of gradual transformation. The main focus is on Milarepa which has been studied as a cinematic kind of namtar (spiritual biography) which visualizes the pure doctrine and corresponds closely with the didactic tradition in Tibetan holy poetry. Additionally the analysis traces interpretations of the life of the Tibetan yogi in Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt’s and Liliana Cavani`s works.

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