In the autumn of 1939, Heinrich Harrer (Brad Pitt), the famous Austrian mountaineer, and a team led by his countryman Peter Aufschnaiter (David Thewlis), set out to climb Nanga Parbat, one of the highest peaks in the Himalayas.
The self-centered Harrer, whose sole preoccupation is the achievement of fame and glory, will experience an emotional awakening as he embarks on a fantastic journey that will take him from the excitement of the climb to the depths of internment in a British prisoner-of-war camp, then from escape and a harrowing two-year trek through the Himalayas to the mysterious, forbidden Tibetan city of Lhasa.
As a stranger in a strange land which few westerners have ever visited, Harrer is befriended by the young Dalai Lama, and becomes the religious leader’s tutor in English, geography and the ways of the western world.
He will spend seven years in Tibet – during a period of tremendous political upheaval in that country — graced with the friendship and the spiritual enlightenment of the eleven year-old Dalai Lama. As the deep and abiding bond between these two isolated, lonely people evolves, the selfish and egotistical Harrer experiences an awakening of selflessness, allowing him to complete the emotional transformation which began on his way to Lhasa.