out of Five
Running time: 99
This authentic and enlightening documentary is visually breathtaking, presenting awe-inspiring and juxtaposed shots of the Earth’s many different cultures.
What's it all about?
Photographer and director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson modernise their guided meditation across the world’s different walks of life and present Samsara, a follow up to their award winning Baraka, released in 1992. This time the idea of transporting the audience to different countries, cultures and religions is updated for the 21st century, portraying updated views of disaster zones, chicken farms, gun factories, sacred grounds and natural wonders to unveil the variable current habitats of humanity and the rest of nature.
Pristinely photographed on 70mm and filmed in twenty-five countries over almost five years, Samsara was named after the Sanskrit word, which translates to ‘the ever turning wheel of life’ and Frick and Magidson use this as departure and destination point, coming full circle in their visual portrayal of human nature.
Visually spectacular, Samsara is an authentic and astonishing trace of the world’s many different paths and an awe-inspiring taste of global education. Each shot is lingered on, portraying every fine detail and is more or less juxtaposed with another shot that is poles apart. For example, seconds after learning of African tribes’ lifestyles, we are presented with Los Angeles’ spaghetti junction-style freeways, emphasising the Earth’s many stark and fascinating contrasts.
The score, composed by Marcello De Francisci is also fantastic, evoking peaceful moods when shots are serene and then becoming energetic as soon as the vibe becomes livelier. Samsara rapidly changes pace many times during its 99 minutes, but the music is always aware of its ever-changing velocity, echoing every one of its mood shifts. As a result, the dialogue (or lack of) isn’t missed in the slightest.
The one frustrating aspect of Samsara is that it gives very little information about where each shot takes place, so when these extraordinary scenes are presented without much background information, it feels a little like visiting an exhibition without knowing what each artwork is about. Producers have explained this is because they want the viewer to make their own interpretations, but the lack of descriptive text and dialogue may disappoint some viewers who want to know more.
Powerful, luminous and completely breathtaking, Samsara is a spectacular dose of visual escapism. Recommended.