Scorsese's early life of the 14th Dalai Lama is the simplest and strangest movie he has yet made. An act of self-imposed exile, it's a Hollywood film only in the production credits and language. There's minimal contextualising. The scenario (by Melissa Mathison) sticks to the Dalai Lama's point of view: his discovery by Buddhist monks searching for the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama among the farming communities of northern Tibet in 1935; his upbringing and tutelage in Lhasa; through the Communist Chinese invasion of 1950, to his own exile to India nine years later. The biographical detail is honest and illuminating, be it the rodents given free range of the Potala palace, the boy's fascination with mechanics, or his wonder at the opulent religious ceremonies. The film isn't remotely slow, yet Scorsese rejects the tenets of Western melodrama and dispenses with the history in so swiftly that it's easy to get lost in the sombre raptures of red, gold and blue. Urged on by Philip Glass's throbbing, blaring score, the director conjures a phenomenal, trance-like climax, owing more to dreams, second sight and the mind's eye than conventional dramatic rhetoric.