Forest of Bliss is an unsparing but ultimately redeeming account of the inevitable grief and frequent happiness that punctuate daily life in Benares, one of the world’s most holy cities, from one sunrise to the next.
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Gardner uses the camera as neutral observer documenting the everyday reality. In spite of the difficulty to mask his alien viewpoint with the pretence of objectivity and authenticity the movie has very stunning moments - especially when it captures aspects of the special soundscapes.
Imagine being plucked out of thin air and then transported to a place where one can experience all of life's prism in a single day. The lack of narration lends the film a distance that feels respectful rather than indifferent, and the incredible sound design immerses the viewer in the cacophony of bells and rituals and unfamiliar languages.
“It is apparent that only a certain kind of person will want to make ethnographic films. It will, above all, be those who sense the profound affinity that exists between the film medium and a desire to understand people.” -Robert Gardner
When I visited Benares in the 90s I was very conscious that through the act of photography we 'collect' places to the detriment of simply experiencing them. At the burning Ghat, I respectively put my camera away, stopped 'collecting' and simply experienced. It's something I have never forgotten. This film perfectly reflects that sense of wonder, serenity, spiritually - whatever you want to call it - that I felt.
beautifully shot, meditative film. the images run from disturbing to sublime. the audio work is phenomenal. it's a bit reminiscent of louis malle's "calcutta", but more focused and personal. at first the images may seem random, but eventually their context becomes clear. a nice look into the beauty and squalor of india, it's attitudes towards life and death, ritual and meaning. be patient with it- it's worthwhile.
This film is astoundingly good, hypnotic and cyclical and gorgeous, a sort of wordless meditation on the Hindu life/death cycle. It's great to see it here because it has sat in dusty academic cupboards for years - it pissed off a lot of anthropologists for its potential ethnocentrism etc. according to the fashions of the day, and later a kind of core text in visual ant, & the ethics of representation. Love it.
Precisa en cada momento, desde la primera imagen se embarca al espectador en un proceso empático con la finalidad de sumergirlo en la textura del momento, aquí es donde los sonidos que rodean la grabación se vuelven ese manto que envuelve la experiencia, tanto que al poco tiempo el espectador se olvida que está frente a una pantalla negra.