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TIFF Assessment: ‘The Monk and the Gun’ is a Good Story from Bhutan

by Alex Billington
September 17, 2023

“Embrace the simplicity of Bhutan and uncover the richness inside.” One other movie in regards to the mystical methods of Bhutan – that is the among the best hidden gems of the 2023 fall movie pageant season. The Monk and the Gun is the second characteristic movie written and directed by the terribly gifted Bhutanese filmmaker Pawo Choyning Dorji. His first movie, known as Lunana: A Yak within the Classroom, was nominated for an Oscar in 2022 however it did not win. It is a good movie, however not one in every of my favorites. His new movie, nonetheless, is an instantaneous favourite. I cherished this, actually, actually cherished this movie. It is a captivating philosophical take a look at life in Bhutan, informed with confidence and filmed completely completely. And on the similar time it is also good satirical commentary on America’s cussed methods, versus the extra smart Bhutan society primarily based in Buddhism. After all there’s one thing about Himalayan tradition that I am personally fairly drawn to already, so I knew this could be my jam, however it’s additionally a sensational movie that can join with many viewers irrespective of the place they’re from.

A lot of the emotionally impactful expertise of watching this isn’t realizing what is going on to occur subsequent or what precisely it’ll be about. As a lot as I need to write this assessment and rave in regards to the movie, I am unsure the best way to stability my need to deliver consideration to it and focus on it, with the notion that everybody wants to look at it with out realizing what is going on on. I say this on a regular basis anyway, however it’s so essential and makes a lot of an actual distinction with the expertise. To stop over-explaining, I will simply follow the fundamentals. The Monk and the Gun is about in 2008 when Bhutan’s Royalty determined to introduce democracy to the nation in an effort to “modernize.” The story follows an ensemble of individuals in and round Bhutan – with two essential characters. The primary is a girl who’s the top of the election council, touring to distant areas to show individuals the best way to vote and get them registered for his or her very first elections. The second is a younger monk whose lama instructs him to go discover a gun – apparently the solely gun in the complete nation – and produce it to him to “make issues proper.” The strain on this story (particularly as an American) is predicated round – what does this lama need with this gun and what he’s going to do with it? Hopefully nothing dangerous… you may have to seek out out.

As a one-of-a-kind movie made by a Bhutanese filmmaker, Pawo Choyning Dorji, it is offering a profoundly distinct perspective on Buddhist philosophy and Himalayan tradition that the majority of us are solely unfamiliar with and might’t fairly make sense of. There’s various amusing scenes within the movie the place the American man who comes to gather the gun encounters “tradition shock” and is unable to even perceive why something is going on. The moments that made me chortle probably the most are scenes the place they mock American sensibilities by displaying how this man thinks he can simply pay cash to make issues occur, besides the Bhutanese will not be swayed by cash, and do not care. There may be extra to life to them than cash. Bhutan is known as being the one nation on this planet that does not prioritize GDP (gross home product) as a result of as a substitute they give attention to “Gross Nationwide Happiness” (GNH). That is additionally a theme of the movie, with loads of commentary stating how money-obsessed America is which will get in the best way of their happiness. Many of the Bhutanese individuals appear fairly content material even when they are not dwelling probably the most trendy, carefree, excellent lives. That is one thing the movie examines brilliantly with nuanced facets of the script and the distinctive interactions between characters.

Not solely is watching The Monk and the Gun such a pleasing and uplifting expertise, it is the sort of movie that can go away you profoundly affected by the story. At the very least that is what I hope, and I feel the filmmakers hope, too. I imagine many individuals will watch this and suppose oh that was good, and attempt to transfer on, however the story and these specific scenes with the American man will stick of their thoughts and stick with them for a very long time. Which is the purpose. The movie is a philosophical examination of the which means of life via the lens of the Bhutanese individuals. It is among the best movies criticizing the American means I’ve ever seen (all dealt with in a humble, trustworthy, and caring means). Tandin Wangchuk performs the monk Tashi, and he is probably the most memorable character. His journey is essential; so are the journeys of everybody on this movie – all of them study one thing from their experiences. I additionally should reward the cinematography by DP Jigme Tenzing, who portrays the gorgeous fantastic thing about Bhutan whereas composing each shot a bit off-center, to offer it a extra distinctive and dynamic look. The Monk and the Gun is magnificent movie made by a distinctive filmmaker, and I am curious to see how everybody reacts to it. There’s a lot to debate, and to study from The Monk and his need for a gun.

Alex’s Venice 2023 Ranking: 9.8 out of 10
Comply with Alex on Twitter – @firstshowing / Or Letterboxd – @firstshowing


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