The Cup

The cup in The Cup represents the World Cup, the Holy Grail of football won in a worldwide tournament once every four years. Of course, football, to ignorant Americans means soccer, arguably the most popular sport in the world. Popular enough to attract the attention of Tibetans monks in exile in India, who do not even have electricity in their monasteary. So goes the plot of The Cup, a nice diversion that will be remembered more for its production than its story (which was inspired by actual events). The Cup is the first movie filmed in Bhutan. Even more interesting is that Buddhists believe that the director, Khyentse Norbu, is the living reincarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, an important person in Buddhist history. The Cup is not a bad first effort for Norbu and his large cast of amateurs, many of whom are actual monks.

The first part of The Cup moves slowly. The actual film can be whittled down to about half an hour without losing any of its messages. Two new monks arrive from China and learn to adjust to life in a monastery. Meanwhile, Orgyen (pronounced ORG-YEN you sickos and played by Jamyang Lodro) is introduced. He is a typical young boy, boisterous, talkative, and hyperactive. In fact, he can be somewhat of a brat. He finds his studies boring, and would rather do nothing than think of his favorite soccer player, Ronaldo. The strict monastic life he leads does not easily lend towards the frivolous pursuits of television, so Orgyen has to sneak out at night to watch the World Cup. Looming over the young monks is Geko (Orgyen Tobgyal), a stern teacher who disapproves of much of what Orgyen does. A group of monks sneak out to watch a semi-final game, and are caught by Geko. They are banned from going back into town to watch the World Cup. Orgyen must somehow come up with a way to watch the final game of the World Cup without getting in trouble. It's no spoiler that he does, and the film has a happy ending.

Norbu shows much promise for a first time director. The visuals are gorgeous, and though predictable, The Cup brings a smile to anyone's face. The script by JR, Denis O'Neill, and Robert Duvall details the everyday life of the Buddhist monk, which turns out to be pretty busy. There are surprising amounts of humor sprinkled into the story, which does manage to pick up after about half an hour. There is also a wealth of information about Buddhist culture and ritual, which, sadly, is not explained. The viewer can only watch and wonder what is going on as the monks go about their daily rituals. Young boys, who will probably enjoy this film the most, will likely balk at having to read subtitles. The actors are all likeable and believable, because, hey, they're all monks in real life. There probably isn't enough substance in the movie to make it especially memorable, but the experience is pleasant enough.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 34 minutes, Subtitled in English, Rated G.

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