© Pandora Filmverleih

Valley of Flowers
India/France/Japan/Germany 2006

Opening 31 May 2007

Directed by: Pan Nalin
Writing credits: Pan Nalin, Sarah Shennib
Principal actors: Milind Soman, Mylène Jampanoï, Naseeruddin Shah, Jampa Kalsang Tamang

What a breathtaking view: horses galloping through the dust of the wide, arid desert valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas! I am even more in awe as the film continues with unusual sights of sun-baked rock formations, of steep and narrow passes leading through the mountain range. How difficult the filming in such heights of up to 5000 meter must have been! It is in this arid and impassable landscape that the Tibetan legend of an insatiable love has its origin.

At the beginning of the 19th Century Jalan (Milind Sonam) and his bandits are raiding a caravan, robbing the unsuspecting pilgrims of all their valuables. When riding off with their booty, beautiful Usha (Mylene Jampanoi) stands motionless in the blinding sunshine, refusing to leave. She convinces Jalan that he appeared in her dream and she is to stay with him. The gang is not too happy with a woman among their ranks, but she makes herself useful in finding even richer travellers and better ways to rob them. Jalan falls more and more in love with the seductive and enigmatic Usha. Ill-feelings develop amongst the men. Jalan becomes ruthless and selfish. When he shoots one of his own men in anger, they leave him and disband. The once proud and energetic Jalan does not care any longer; he is totally detached from reality.

The pair leaves all worldly possessions behind, living only for their pure and intense love in search of immortality. Their goal is the Valley of Flowers. Days of steep climbing lead to this enchanted valley nestled between the highest mountain peaks. The legend tells of nymphs and fairies frolicking in the meadows, joined by humans who are “heavenly” in love. Usha’s and Jalan’s entwined bodies are levitated into the blue sky.

Change of scenery: Tokyo in present day chaos. (This change was effectively achieved by showing Jalan’s walking feet marching through the decades.) The lovers who had managed to steal the potion of immortality in Tibet were separated when being chased by the wise Yeti (Naseeruddin Shah), the guardian of balance between life and death. He wants Usha to return to the spiritual world, where she had come from. Jalan, now an entrepreneur who is selling “peaceful death” under the name of Valley of Flowers is in difficulties as euthanasia is forbidden in Japan. Usha, a singer in a club, finds Jalan in the busy streets of Tokyo. But the wise Yeti had already discovered both of them. He can now determine the course of their fate, influence life and death by playing on his magical flute – which is made of human bone – bringing the unruly free demons under control.

Director Pan Nalin wrote the script, inspired by Alexandra David-Néel’s real-life novel Magie d’amour et magie noire (Liebeszauber und Schwarze Magie). She was the first white woman to explore the Himalayas and Tibet in the early 1920s, sharing her unusual experiences in her books. This film premiered at the 2007 Filmfest Hamburg. (Birgit Schrumpf)

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