The Pleasures of “Himalaya”

What a blessing it is to be able to see a film such as Himalaya, set in Nepal’s Dolpo region, on the big screen.  Yes, it came to Tulsa in 2002—a fictional near-documentary made by Frenchman Eric Valli, a former National Geographic photographer and author.

The story is that of Tibetan herdsmen, and one woman and one child, leading groups of yaks through the Himalaya mountains with the objective of trading for food the salt those yaks are hauling.  The scenery is imposing, the mountains frightful in their size.  Soon we are accosted by a beautiful blue lake at the bottom of one of those mountains; one of the yaks plunges into it.  Thereafter winter sets in and the herdsmen endure the brutal power of a snowstorm destined to leave the Himalayas white.  And it does:  another exquisite sight.

Two cinematographers were employed here, and the look is smooth and un-garishly easy on the eye.  The snowy landscape under the sun does not shine too brightly for us, and yet we know, we can see, why it is too bright for the Tibetans.  That’s cinematography as it should be.  Valli backs away from too many closeups and, instead, lets us see nature dwarfing the herdsmen.  The music by Bruno Coulais is brusque and nicely ethnic, and Valli’s enjoyable cast is mostly nonprofessional.  They’re from Nepal’s Dolpo region.

Cover of "Himalaya"
Cover of Himalaya

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