1993 film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and starring Keanu Reaves as Siddhartha. The film is the story of a Buddhist Lama who comes to America to find the reincarnation of his teacher. He believes that the teacher has been reincarnated in the form of a young American boy. The boy and his father (played by Chris Isaak) travel to Tibet to determine whether or not the child is actually the reincarnated Lama.

The plot splits as the story of the Buddha's enlightenment is explained to the boy, and the film cuts back and forth between present-day Tibet and ancient India. Bertolucci's movies are always lush-looking, and his style is particularly effective in the parts set in India.

I thought Keanu's lack of acting skills were perfect for the role of an empty, priviledged member of the royalty who gives it all up to seek nirvana, but pretty much everyone I've talked to hates this film.

Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha is broken into two parts: a modern day fable about a Buddhist monk in search of his reincarnated teacher and the story of Siddhartha or Buddha. Using the present day tale, Bertolucci highlights Buddhism’s journey of enlightenment.

Dean Conrad, the father of one of the children who could possibly be the reincarnated monk, is very noticeably spiritually empty at the beginning of the film. He is an engineer who is made complete by building skyscrapers. His home is very modern and with out much personal touch.

Bertolucci films this first part of the movie, when Conrad is without spirit (in fact not even being aware he is without spirit); and the scenes are void of almost any color. It seems that Bertolucci did this to highlight the hollowness of the characters existence. Slowly over time, and especially after arriving in Bhutan, color fills the screen. Color in the later scenes as Conrad takes in the new culture becomes almost overwhelming.

This follows Buddhism’s idea of a necessary journey. Without the journey, there can be no true enlightenment. As Conrad and his son listen to the story of the Buddha and his spiritual battles and slow enlightenment, from stoic to follower of the “middle path”, Conrad and his son Jesse fill themselves with this knowledge and find compassion in themselves, where they didn’t know they had any. If a soul is a lake or an ocean, full of spirituality, in the beginning of the film, Conrad’s soul is simply a puddle. Living away from his wife and with out extravagance, Conrad finds himself; and this awakening is as important to the story as the search for the reincarnated Llama.

Conrad’s story parallels Siddhartha’s journey. Siddhartha is without empathy, because he does not know evil, death or disease. It takes a bold step outside the gates of his home – just as Conrad does in his trip out of Seattle – to make him enlightened. In this sense, the journey itself in both cases is more important that what the principal for leaving was or what was learned by either man. In that way both stories show Buddhism as the journey not the way.

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