Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Reincarnation

Nathaniel Kahn’s remarkable film My Architect dealt with Kahn’s attempt to discover the world of his absent father, the famed architect Louis Kahn who died when the filmmaker was eleven. Jennifer Fox’s My Reincarnation deals with the westernized son of a master of the Dzogchen style of Buddhism who attempts to walk in the shoes of the father he has barely known. The similarity of both films lies in the way they point to the limitations of great gifts and talents even as they pertain to the realm of the soul. Like Kahn who had great difficulty in relating to people, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, a “rinpoche” or precious one is better as a teacher and cultivator of his flock than he is as father and family man. Though his son Yeshi is deemed to be the reincarnation of his uncle Khyentse, the son, at first, rebels and chooses a secular path working  with computers in his native Italy. The disparity between Chogyal’s ability to deal with life as a Buddhist and his inability to deal with his son’s existence as a human being is one of the most touching aspects of the film and a kind of living testament to his own philosophy that “everything is illusion, unreal, just like a dream,” and  “there is nothing very much to change.” The Dalai Lama appears in the film and one can’t help thinking of prominent Buddhists like Leonard Cohen and Robert Thurman in this rather down to earth, materialistic view of Buddhism. Chogyal grows old and fat over the 20 years that My Reincarnation encompasses. As he exercises in a swimming pool he could be anyone’s aging father who, at retirement age, is less a threat than a burden. Yeshi worries about how he will deal with his father's dead weight as he helps him around while at the same time allowing the older man to become his teacher.

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