The Knowledge Of Healing Review

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We are introduced to the techniques of Tibetan medicines and shown proof that they are more than mere quackery by providing scientific evidence of their validity.


Audience awareness of Tibetan culture has never been higher, thanks to the success of Seven Years In Tibet and Kundun. But, with the greatest respect, it's hard to see how the fourteenth Dalai Lama is going to have the same box office pull as Brad Pitt or Martin Scorsese.

In fairness to Swiss filmmaker Franz Reichle, he achieves exactly what he set out to do, namely introduce us to the techniques of Tibetan medicines and prove they are more than mere quackery by providing scientific evidence of their validity. Yet, for all its sincerity, this is a documentary that interests rather than fascinates.

There are moments of undeniable beauty as a torch beam picks out illustrations from the famous Thangkas - the 17th century charts that reveal an advanced knowledge of embryology, anatomy and physiology. There are also talking heads and case studies aplenty. But what is missing here is the human aspect that made such diverse documentaries as Hoop Dreams and Anne Frank Remembered so compelling.

Dr. Tenzin Choedrak, personal physician to the Dalai Lama, makes an affable guide to the complex interrelationship between spiritual and bodily energies and the wide range of natural healing materials. But what we need to see is more of his bedside manner, such as his treatment with a red-hot metal rod of head injuries of a Buddhist nun, beaten by jailers while imprisoned for demonstrating against the Chinese occupation.

A whiff of capitalist self-satisfaction pervades the sequences showing how Tibetan remedies have become big business in the West. But the tone remains largely reverential. New Agers and aficionados of alternative medicine will have plenty to talk about on the way home. But the rest of us can hope for a mild case of enlightenment.

This documentary sets out to do what it intended, and we are all more enlightened as a result, but it lacks the human element that makes great documentaries. That's why it's interesting, but not fascinating.