Samsara (2011)–Ron Fricke Shows Us the Diversity of Mankind

It is impossible to express how beautiful Samsara is to see on a big screen.  If you’ve seen Baraka or Chronos at the theater, then you’ll have the best idea of what you are in store for visually.  And this film is all about visuals.  It’s a documentary without narrative.  Beautiful hypnotic music, gorgeous exotic music, lush sacred music adds to the impact of the visuals, but this film is all about seeing.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, your mind will race through an encyclopedia worth of words as you watch Samsara.  It’s a rush.

I can’t emphasize this enough, but to truly experience this film you need to go see it in a theater.  I have Baraka on DVD and watch it on a 56” TV, and I love it.  But it’s not the full experience.  Nothing I can say can convey the full impact of the film.  No photograph or film clip does the film justice.

Now I warn you, this is an intensely intellectual film, even though it has no words.  Many people, will find it boring – if you have a fascination about this reality we live in, then your lifetime of thoughts will make this film great.  Your mind will create a narrative as you watch.  This show is a head trip, and your thoughts will script the film as you watch.  You’ll write it different every time you watch it.  The many scenes from around the world are meant to trigger deep philosophical responses. 

Samsara will probably only play one week in your town, so if its on, go see it while you can.

Be sure and set this clip to the highest resolution and watch it full screen.  Or visit the official site and watch the clip there.

Samsara was filmed in 25 countries with 70mm film, and converted to digital with a 8k scan, creating a 20 terabyte file.  That’s a lot of details to shoot up into your brain in one hour and thirty-nine minutes.  Most Blu-Ray films come in around 20 gigabytes, so Samsara has a 1,000 times more bytes of detail.

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Samsara is a spiritual ride around the globe, zooming in on monasteries and prisons, jungles and deserts, slums and hi-rises, the poor and the rich, the beautiful and the grotesque, the living and the dead, a baby in the womb, and people in their coffins.

Samsara and Baraka shows how immensely diverse our world is.  It makes you realize that your view of reality, the one you’re so obsessed with, is really so very small.  Just before Samsara came on tonight they had a preview for The Hobbit.  That preview entices movie goers to come see a fantasy world rich in landscape and full of colorful fantasy beings.  It was a thrilling preview until Samsara came on.  The real world Samsara made the fantasy world of The Hobbit seem pathetic and dull.

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It’s very hard to describe Samsara because it doesn’t stay on any scene for very long.  Each clip is glimpse of a subculture from around the world.  Only a well traveled world traveler will know about most of these sites and people.  There’s even a humorous look of gun owners from around the globe, and beautiful sequences of bullet manufacturing.

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Samsara spends quite a lot of time showing exotic locations of religious worship.  This was also true of Baraka.  I believe the filmmakers must be very spiritual people, but I see what they show in a different light.  I see the temples as relics of history, and their worshipers as primitive souls trying to hang onto a dying past in our fast pace world that’s constantly changing.  Our modern world, shown at night, looks like red blood cells coursing through veins.

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The Buddhist monks carefully create a mandala with colored sand, but in the end they destroy their creation.  I assume to make it again the next day.  That focus on creating the details in the image is a kind of worship, or prayer.  Filming Samsara is the same kind of worship.

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There will be scenes that might shock, disturb or disgust you, but they are all filmed so beautifully that I have to assume that the filmmakers see everything on Earth in a spiritual light.  Many of the scenes are just exotic people that live their lives so much different from ours.  Seeing the film makes me realize how parochial I am.

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If Samsara isn’t at a nearby theater, then buy Baraka on Blu-Ray.  You can watch the entire film online, to get some idea of how Ron Fricke sees the world.  Watch it at least long enough to study the faces of the snow monkeys bathing in the warm water.  Think about how they see this world.  Think of the snow monkey watching this film like an alien from outer space seeing our world for the first time.  I’ve watch Baraka many times now, and I want to be the snow monkey.

Samsara and Baraka will not appeal to a lot of people.  I’m sorry that’s so.  People really should spend one evening watching a movie that so much different from their usual multiplex fare.  Take a trip around the real world, it’s more far-out than any CGI world ever created – even Avatar.

JWH – 11/2/12

One Response

  1. […] PBS.  The next best source is streaming Netflix.  For instance I showed my friend Olivia Samsara yesterday that’s from Netflix.  She was blown […]

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