Berlinale: Programme

Film File


Die Leuchte Asiens

The Light of Asia / Prem sanyas

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The framework story of the film is an old Buddhist monk telling English tourists the life story of the Buddha Gautama, who was born Siddhartha Gautama, son of a king, in the sixth century BCE. In fear of a prophecy that he would renounce all worldly things, his father surrounded him with riches and beautiful women. But Gautama’s favour belonged solely to the princess Gopa. His rival for her affections is his cousin Devadatta, but Gautama wins her as his wife and the couple lives in seclusion on an idyllic island. However, when he leaves the island and is confronted with aging, illness, and death, he faces a choice between wealth and inner greatness … India, on the threshold of modernity, affirms its spiritual roots with the help of a director from Germany – this magnificent, monumental film is a combination of oriental fairytale and religious Passion Play, an early form of the Hindu cinema that would later become Bollywood. Embedded in a documentary travelogue, cinema makes an appearance alongside older, magical practices. People no longer hope for enlightenment under the bodhi tree, but rather from a film projector.

Franz Osten

Germany / India 1925

English intertitles

98’ · Black/White · 2K DCP

Digitally Restored Version 2013


Himansu Rai
Seeta Devi
Sarada Ukil
Rani Bala
Prafulla Roy
Sunit Mitter
Jagit Mathur
Sundar Rayam
Profulla Chandra


Franz Osten
Robert Menasse, based on the epic poem “The Light of Asia” (1879) by Sir Edwin Arnold
Wilhelm Kiermeier, Josef Wirsching
Charu Roy
Peter Ostermayer, Himansu Rai

Produced by

Münchner Lichtspielkunst AG (Emelka)

Great Eastern Film Corp.

Himansu Rai Film

DCP: Deutsches Filminstitut, Frankfurt am Main