To be fair, that past was exposed in a German magazine article only after the film was in postproduction. A voice-over was added to the final prints mentioning, in passing, that Harrer was a member of the "National Socialist Party." That's the chickenshit way of admitting he was a Nazi. Actually, he was more than a Nazi; he was a member of the SS, though he now claims he enlisted only to facilitate his mountaineering. And he's probably telling the truth -- his words have the obscene thwack of a true careerist.
But you don't need to know about Harrer's Nazi background to recognize the film's falsity. It's there in the way Annaud lights Brad Pitt's goldilocks, so that Harrer outshines even the Dalai Lama. It's there in the film's insufficiency of religious feeling. We're asked to applaud a soul man with no soul.
Seven Years in Tibet.
Written by Becky Johnston; directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud; with Brad Pitt, David Thewlis, Mako, B.D. Wong, Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk, Lhakpa Tsamchoe, and Victor Wong.