Prepare yourself for an unparalleled sensory experience. Samsara reunites director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson, whose previous films Baraka and Chronos were acclaimed for combining visual and musical artistry. Samsara expands on their effort to portray the connections between humanity and nature in a bold way. Filmed for over four years and in more than twenty countries, the film transports us through multiple cultures to sacred grounds, disaster sites, industrialized zones and natural wonders. By dispensing with dialogue and descriptive text, the filmmakers subvert our expectations of a documentary. Instead, they encourage our own interpretations inspired by images and musical compositions that infuse the ancient with the modern.
Samsara is a Tibetan word that means “the ever turning wheel of life,” and Fricke describes the film as a “guided meditation on the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.”
Early on, we watch a group of Buddhist monks in Ladakh perform the painstaking ritual of creating a sand mandala. Kneeling in a circle, the monks work separately — shaking coloured grains of sand from small tubes into an intricate design — and thereby compose a collective work of art. This breathtaking activity is indicative of how the filmmakers give us privileged access to profound scenarios. Other tableaux include the surrealist wreckage of houses after Hurricane Katrina, the testing of lifelike robots alongside their human counterparts, group exercises in a prison, garbage pickers in an endless horizon of trash and Muslim pilgrims circling around the tomb at Mecca.
Even when the setting is familiar, Fricke brings a revivified perspective with his stunning compositions, matched with the latest in photographic technology. His team shot on 65mm film, then transferred it through a high resolution scanning process to a digital format that makes for mesmerizing images. For filmgoers who cherished the revelations of Baraka almost twenty years ago, Samsara proves to be worth the wait. –TIFF
Ron Fricke is an American film director and cinematographer, considered to be a master of time-lapse photography and large format cinematography. He was the director of photography for Koyaanisqatsi (1982) and directed the purely cinematic non-verbal non-narrative feature Baraka (1992). He designed and used his own 70mm camera equipment for Baraka and his later projects. He also directed the IMAX films Chronos (1985) and Sacred Site (1986). His most recent work was as cinematographer for parts of the film Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (he was hired to shoot the eruption of Mt Etna in Sicily for use in scenes of the volcanic planet Mustafar). The sequel to Baraka, Samsara, is currently in production. —wikipedia
Spectacularly shot, Samsara approaches contemplation in a slightly different way to Baraka Remaining strongly critical of contemporary society it relies far less on juxtaposing repetitive rhythm and more on some of the absurdities and even playfulness of this modern life. Some statements may feel heavy handed but I wonder if this is just the result of a better educated global audience this time round? 3.5 stars
Samsara is a depressingly accurate account of shallow human materialism, the widespread ungratefulness of our culture, and the incredible arrogance we continue to proudly possess. It features images… read review