Samsara - The Images of Inevitability

                        What's a movie? Mostly, it's a juxtaposition of images and the relationships between them. Yeah, you need images and then some kind of a story to relate those pictures. That 's the common way to make a movie. So, I suppose a film with no dialogues and no narrative in the ordinary sense, is just an extreme or pure version of the form. Film-maker Ron Fricke followed that purest form in his globe-trotting visual marvel Baraka (1992) and as cinematographer on Koyaanisqatsi (1982). Now, he is back with a bang a new film, “Samsara,” (2012) shot in a vibrant and grand 70-millimeter format — including some remarkable time-lapse photography.

                       Fricke and his co-editor/producer Magidson, for their new film,  has photographed over a period of five years, beginning in 2007, in 25 different countries. So, what do we see? Breathtaking cinematography, beguiling images portraying the vastness and variety of nature, city life, sacred sites, and religious rituals. Watching these wordless collection of images, they some how conjure up a combination of curiosity and awe in the viewer. But, don't ask why or how these images relate to each other. To ask questions is to totally miss the point. The film is just an bombardment of diverse imagery that shifts so rapidly from one locale and one theme to the next that you almost feel like a prisoner to the filmmaker’s muse. Consider yourself as an extra-terrestrial sight-seer examining a planet called 'Earth.'

                   "Samsara" is a sanskrit word, which literally means “continuous flow.” The word refers to the ongoing cycle of life and death, decay and renewal -- the wheel of life. Over the years, I have seen "Baraka" many times. Each viewing expands our knowingness of the world and enables us to widen the circle of our compassion. The same kind of spiritual journey is evident in Samsara, where Fricke and Magidson take us on a quest to a greater understanding and appreciation of the human condition and a reverence for the beauty and power of the natural world.

Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson
                     Director Fricke enraptures you with natural and man-made sights. Most of the sequences are mind-blowing: the spewing lava of an volcano; astounding real rock formations that seem to have been created artificially; the wrecked houses left behind by a horrific sand storm; devotions of young Buddhist monks; a montage of babies being baptized; a shirtless man, his body completely covered with tattoos, tenderly cradling his child.

                     Samsara is mostly non-judgmental in its depiction of humanity. It projects the planet's stark division between rich and poor, and a species that seems obsessed with killing and violence on one hand and a godlike reshaping of itself on the other. The same kind and civilization has also produced the fabulously ornate medieval mosques of the Near East, the cathedrals of Europe, the breathtakingly bold architecture of the great cities. Even when you are watching unforgettable sequences, like showing the workers loading chunks of sulfur from a mine (in China, I think), or factory-produced chickens being sucked to their doom through a roving machine, I don’t think the filmmakers doesn't insert any personal opinions. 

                      Are those images showcases, 'the necessary evil' of our modern world? We simply see what it is and can't go no further than that, since the movie doesn't offer either a cure or an prediction. In the end, words doesn't do any kind of justice to "Samsara", whether mine or anyone else's. Anyway the movie requires a certain degree of submission. It's vast panorama of stunning visuals and the ideas they evoke give us pause and cause us to rethink the world in ways both instinctual and rational. 

                     "Samsara" is a hypnotic, transcendental and socially conscious head-trip cinema. Along with "Baraka", it's a film to treasure all your life.


Samsara - IMDb


Sunil Deepak said...

I think that there was another film with this same name about buddhist monks.

Your review of this film is very nice and makes one wish to see it though in reality I am not sure if it won't bore me a little, after a while!

Arun Kumar said...

@Sunil Deepak, Thanks for the comment. Yeah there was a movie named "Samsara" released in 2001. It's a spiritual journey of a man, set in the landscape of Ladakh.

I also thought about the 'boring factor' when watching both "Baraka" and "Samsara" But, these movies only intrigued me. May be it's because of its majestic images or the way they are edited. You are never gonna know what kind of image comes next.

CYNOSURE said...

aaahhh...I was thinking for writing about it but was not able to find right words to describe the movie...perfect one indeed...

Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

Here's another film that I need to have my hands on. Great review! Will watch it soon