Samsara Review

Filmmakers Fricke and Magidson take their time making movies: their last film was 1992's Baraka. Over the next decade, they travelled around the world with a 70mm camera shooting scenes on every continent. Compiled together and projected in super-high-definition 4K, this is a staggeringly beautiful movie. But it has no story, no characters and no dialog. You couldn't even call it a documentary, as there isn't an obvious subject. But through clever juxtaposition of the images, the filmmakers have a message for us that's startlingly moving.

As the images wash over us, several themes emerge. Most obvious is the depiction of human rhythms and yearnings, with scenes of monks in Myanmar and dancers in Indonesia cross-cut with Chinese assembly-line workers and a New Orleans library devastated by Hurricane Katrina. This spiritual approach catches the give and take between culture and nature, as we watch epic landscapes reclaiming man-made structures in dazzling time-lapse photography that plays with the light and shadow of the sun, moon and stars. The title is the Sanskrit word for "continuous flow", referring to the cycle of birth, life and death.

There are several moments when the film jolts us with a striking contrast, cutting from luxury to poverty, natural beauty to horrific destruction, a plaintive human face to a fiery volcanic eruption. All of this is accompanied by an expressive, rhythmic musical score composed and/or selected by Michael Sterns, Lisa Gerrard and Marcello De Francisi to reflect both the emotions and the energy of the images.

All of this allows us to interpret scenes on our own terms, including cleverly jarring images like a woman in a burkha standing in front of a billboard of men modelling underwear. But later on, the film becomes much more topical, with a sequence that traces the manufacture, use and tragic results of the global obsession with guns. And another segment traces the mind-boggling scale of chicken and beef production, leading into scenes of obesity and plastic surgery. Yes, humanity is great at building things, but we will also clearly be our own undoing.

Rich Cline


Facts and Figures

Run time: 102 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 23rd August 2012

Box Office USA: $2.6M

Budget: $4M

Distributed by: Oscilloscope Pictures

Production compaines: Magidson Films

Reviews 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Fresh: 59 Rotten: 18

IMDB: 8.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Ron Fricke?

Producer: Mark Magidson?