Based on the eponymous 1952 memoir of the Austrian mountaineer and Schutzstaffel (SS) sergeant Heinrich Harrer, ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ is a 1997 biographical war drama movie helmed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. Set in 1930s British India, the narrative follows an egocentric Austrian mountaineer named Heinrich Harrer, who decides to climb the Nanga Parbat and make a name for his country. Being an egoist and loner, he does not blend well with others on his team but is forced to agree to their decision when the weather gets unfavorable for the climb.
When World War II breaks out, and they are arrested, Heinrich somehow breaks out with Peter Aufschnaiter, and they find themselves in Lhasa, where the latter ends up marrying Pema Lhaki, and the former befriends the young Dalai Lama. As Heinrich spends more time with Lama, he learns selflessness and transforms his personality. While the biographical narrative, coupled with stellar performances from Brad Pitt, David Thewlis, BD Wong, and Mako, keeps the viewers invested in the movie, the use of some fascinating locations against the backdrop of the mountain ranges is bound to make one curious about the actual filming sites of ‘Seven Years in Tibet.’ If you have been wondering the same, we have got you covered!
Seven Years in Tibet Filming Locations
‘Seven Years in Tibet’ was filmed in Argentina, China, Nepal, Austria, and British Columbia, specifically in Buenos Aires Province, Mendoza Province, Tibet Autonomous Region, Tyrol, and Vancouver. As per reports, the principal photography for the Brad Pitt starrer commenced in late September 1996 and wrapped up in March 1997. Now, let’s not waste any time and follow Heinrich Harrer in his transformational journey and get a detailed account of all the specific sites that feature in the drama movie!
Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
Most of ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ was lensed in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina’s largest and most populous province. The province’s capital city, La Plata, served as one of the primary production locations for the movie. The railway station scene where Heinrich leaves for Unserberg was shot at La Plata railway station. The decision to shoot the movie in Argentina was made after the Chinese Communist Party forced the Indian government not to allow the Jean-Jacques Annaud directorial to be shot in Ladakh.
So, to recreate Lhasa, the filming unit reportedly constructed around 40 sets, including a 220-yard-long recreation of one of the Lhasa streets, a 9,000 square-foot replica of the Hall of Good Deeds, the Potala’s coronation room, and the ancient 1,000 room palace of the Dalai Lamas. One of the biggest challenges in shooting the movie in South America was importing the yaks, as the animals were transported from a ranch in Montana.
Mendoza Province, Argentina
A few important portions of ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ were also recorded in the Mendoza Province, a province in Argentina’s Cuyo region. Reportedly, some exterior shots of the Andes mountain were shot in the province. Apart from being the seventh biggest province in the country, it is also the fifth most populous region of the nation.
Tibet Autonomous Region, China
Once the movie got released, the director of ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ confessed that a couple of crew members managed to secretly shoot 20 minutes worth of footage for the movie in the Tibet Autonomous Region, a province-level autonomous region of China. Some key scenes for the film were seemingly shot secretly in and around Mount Kailash and Potala Palace at 35 Beijing Middle Road in Lhasa.
Additional portions of the biographical movie were reportedly taped in Nepal, a landlocked country in South Asia situated mainly in the Himalayas. Given its mountainous landscape, Nepal is a suitable production location for a movie like ‘Seven Years in Tibet.’
Since the character of Heinrich is from Austria, it only makes sense that the production team of ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ decided to shoot a few scenes set in the country on location in Tyrol, a state in western Austria. Specifically, they utilized the locales of the medieval town of Lienz to tape some portions of the film.
Vancouver, British Columbia
For shooting purposes, the filming unit of ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ also traveled to Vancouver, the most populous city in British Columbia. Located in western Canada, Vancouver is considered one of the nation’s most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities. Although it is one of the most expensive cities in the country, it is also known to be one of the most livable cities in the world.