Written by Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson
Directed by Ron Fricke
Samsara is a term used in Hinduism and Buddhism that is meant to represent birth, life, death and rebirth, followed in one continuous flow. It is a beautiful concept but a lofty goal to capture on film. Regardless, this is exactly what documentary filmmaker, Ron Fricke (BARAKA) strives to encapsulate in his latest opus, SAMSARA, a film he describes as a guided meditation through this cycle. Shot in over 25 countries around the world and in stunning 70mm film format, Fricke, along with the invaluable help of his team, have created a remarkably striking piece of cinema. And while I’ve no doubt that Fricke has the ability to showcase the world in all its splendor, I’m not sure he fully comprehends the notion of meditation.
When SAMSARA opens, it is instantly mesmerizing. We are treated to views of breathtaking landscapes, erupting volcanoes and people immersed in cultures that are so far removed from the fast pace of Western civilization. While it captivates, it also illuminates the viewer on a different way of life, one that is simpler with a great eye and appreciation for beauty. It is creation caught on film for photography aficionados and those with an eye for, and an interest in, film as art. There are no words, only music, which wasn’t even present during the editing process, as Fricke wanted nothing but the image itself to guide the flow of the film. This approach gives SAMSARA a fascinating flow but Fricke is fooling himself if he thinks that he isn’t just as big an influence on the direction of the film as the images themselves.
It is when Fricke begins looking at the living part of the life cycle, that SAMSARA goes from dynamic to somewhat disturbing. While I commend Fricke for not being afraid of humanity’s darker side, whether that’s our insatiable need for more material goods and consumption or if that’s our distressing ability to lose interest in what we have almost immediately after we obtain it, I do feel that his need to make that point is somewhat heavy handed and borderline judgmental. All the same, the point is a relevant one. With so much beauty in the world, beauty that is brilliantly exemplified for us in SAMSARA, do we really need so many things to distract us from it? To say nothing of the people who toil away day in and day out manufacturing these goods or the fact that these things just end up being thrown away eventually either. I suppose in the end, if I am to be schooled on living right, I am pleased the lesson looks as lustrous as this.
Review copy provided by eOne Entertainment. SAMSARA is available to purchase on Blu-ray and DVD now.