“I DON’T BELIEVE IN REINCARNATION,” the husband says to his wife. “Not like this, anyway. ‘Coming back’ as a specific person. And neither do you,” he concludes. Then, after a poignant cinematic beat, he adds, “Or do you?”


The cameraman—dolly, camera, and all—rolls back across the spacious room. In a house-turned-movie-set in Seattle, Bernardo Bertolucci and three-time-Oscar winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro converse in Italian. After a number of previous hits, they have joined forces once again to pull off what may become one of this century’s most remarkable transmissions of Buddhism to the West. Any Bertolucci movie is a media event of massive proportions, and if Little Buddha—which deals with both ancient and contemporary aspects of Buddhism—is half as successful as The Last Emperor, this movie may trigger ramifications for the future of Buddhism into the next century as well.


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Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Jeremy Thomas on the set in Nepal. Angelo Novi.

The main stateside location for Bertolucci’s venture is an ostentatious three-story mansion of concrete, glass, and steel that towers over the dignified residences of Queen Anne Hill, a conservative, upper-middle-class neighborhood overlooking Puget Sound. And although the house features every kind of modern convenience, after sixteen weeks of filming Little Buddha in Bhutan and Nepal, any location in Seattle would have been a luxurious relief for this crew.

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