Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Off The Shelf: The Cup (1999)

The Cup, which I first saw at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1999, has a deceptively simple plot. Based on a true story, the film focuses on a couple of teenaged monks training at a monastery in India who become completely obsessed with the 1998 World Cup soccer tournament. While desperately trying to hatch plots to rent a TV and a satellite dish, they also have to convince the monastery abbot to give them permission to watch the final match. Drawing much of his influence from Iranian cinema, writer and director Khyentse Norbu creates an unassuming parable where within it hides an assortment of rich and provocative ideas.

For example, the comic notion of the modern world invading a monastic culture is explored with deft sensitivity as well as irony. Also underlying the picture are wistful traces of homesickness since many of the monks are Tibetan exiles. The nationalism which fuels the World Cup competition seems to also symbolize the monks' own struggle for a national identity. Norbu treats this sad state of affairs with a sly sense of humour.

Although The Cup is paced a little slowly for a comedy, at least by Western standards, the lush serenity of the Himalayas isn't used for its austerity. Instead, it provides a vibrancy that becomes a perfect backdrop for adolescent chicanery. (Kids, being kids, always get bored in such surroundings.) There's also a wonderfully poignant moment when the abbot, who is initially confused by all this excitement over a tournament staged for a little cup, finally understands its significance when he lovingly cradles his own favourite teacup.

The Cup is a satisfying comedy with an ache at its core.

-- Kevin Courrier is a writer/broadcaster, film critic, teacher and author. His forthcoming book is Reflections in the Hall of Mirrors: American Movies and the Politics of Idealism.


  1. "The Cup is a satisfying comedy with an ache at its core."-----really....i am agree with you.