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.
A forest of images, a forest of moments tumbling past. The sacred river and time, the holy city and the industry of death in India. The camera as passive witness in a place so ancient & alien to most Westerners. Slowly the viewer begins to piece together the activities of this place, to notice its rhythms, how it all flows together. Ugly and harsh details at times. A slow, interesting non-narrative visual exploration
Whenever I get in touch with India's bubble culture, it strikes my western mind. Especially when presented in a solid and yet beautiful ethnographic work such as this. The flowers, river, wood, the ladders, boats and death, all tied up in a solely religion purposes economy. 4,5
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.
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.
This film is Robert Gardner's masterpiece. It breaks through the confines of visual anthropology and becomes an immersive experience of a day in the life along the Ganges. The viewer is swept away by an impeccable presentation of the life and death cycle in Indian culture. Evidence of an expert at work, the pace of the narrative elegantly connects Varanasi's circadian labors to the celebration of the closing of life.
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.
At first I felt uncomfortable about not having subtitles, but then it helped to establish an observer position. The movie is well-paced and concentrated; we were following their all-day struggle against flesh, dead or alive. I couldn't guess what's the rattling for: to subdue other sounds, like that of the dogs, maybe?