Life of Buddha by Martin Meissonnier

Yechhu Tole, Storyteller

Yechhu Tole, Storyteller

This is a 90-minute film originally made for French networks in 2003 about the Life of the Buddha. It is similar to the way in which the Life of the Buddha films for the BBC (Britain) and PBS (USA) stations were constructed, alternating interviews with experts, giving their opinions of the life, and enactments of various scenes.

Where it excels is in using Nepalese story tellers to freely narrate and embellish the story, and looking at the lives of some tribes in Nepal, who still live more or less the way their forebears did thousands of years ago.

When we come to the interviews with experts there are some shortcomings. The most interesting are the various sections with Robin Coningham, a British archeologist, which do throw light on some aspects of the life, even when they are only really used only to balance the traditional story.

The interviews with some of the others: like Hindus, Jainas and secular Indians and so on, are much less helpful, as they simply undercut the story, but only to expose the particular bias of the speaker.

In contradistinction to the original disciples of the Buddha, who thought the teaching the most important thing about the Buddha’s Life, here we do not find any real explanation of the teaching at all, apart from a nod at the noble truths and the middle way.

There are some very misleading things said near the end of the film by Thich Nhat Hanh, whom I otherwise admire, when he talks about their being no death, no being or non-being. This may be his view, and the view of his tradition, but it can hardly be considered the Buddha’s view of things.

The interviews in the film are mainly conducted in English, which requires no translation here, of course, and the Hindu and Nepalese speakers have been dubbed into English.

The film cannot be embedded here, so I give a link to the page on the CultureUnplugged site where it can be watched online.

 

to see a set of stills click on the screenshot below

 

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