Sunday, February 03, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Samsara (2012) ****

PG-13, 102 min.
Director: Ron Fricke
Writers: Ron Fricke, Mark Magidson

“Samsara” is a documentary of beauty and sadness. In the same tradition of this documentary team’s film “Baraka”, “Samsara” is a documentary of images only. There are no interviews. There is no story to be told. There is no scandal to expose. However, the doc does seem to question our mass production of things in an indirect way.

The movie is a compilation of stunning images set to an ambient score of complimentary music. Filmed over a five-year period in over 25 countries, the movie seems to concentrate pretty heavily on the far east, showing both traditional costuming, modern poverty, stunning landscapes, and various arenas of mass production, including chicken factories, electronic factories, auto shipping, and a prison. Somehow the criminals and the poverty stricken areas fit right in with the other industries of mass production in this modern world.

The word “Samsara” is Sanskrit, literally meaning “continuous flow.” It represents the repeating cycle of birth, life, death, and reincarnation in many Eastern beliefs. In Sikhism it also incorporates the notion of how our actions affect our world. This all makes for a pretty good description of the film. Mostly, it is a phenomenally beautiful visual experience that I’m sure works even better on a large format screen—this was the first film shot in the 70mm format since Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 version of “Hamlet”—but it works fine on a high definition big screen TV.

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