Earlier this summer I had an opportunity to see Samsara, the new film from Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson, and the follow-up to their landmark 1992 film, Baraka. Serving as both and evolution and an extension of their previous film, Samsara is another breathtaking journey to every corner of the globe, and capturing the flow of life in a way that’s impossible to describe.
Like Baraka before it, the film features no dialogue or spoken words of any kind, just music and imagery. I imagine some will find it to be tremendously boring but I was glued to the screen from the first frame. Shot in 70mm, the sheer amount of depth and vibrancy in every shot is nothing short of stunning, and the format allows for some truly incredible wide-angle photography to really capture the scope of our world, in all its grandeur and intimacy.
In a particularly striking sequence, Fricke & Magidson open the film with a shot of monks creating a massive and ridiculously detailed mosaic using what appears to be colored salt or minerals, covering every tiny minutiae of this project with the utmost attention to detail. The film closes, after a long series of increasingly momentum-building sequences, with the same monks, having completed the mosaic, and after a few shots of the final work, they simply brush it aside with their hands and erase any trace of it ever existing. It’s a moment that will likely stay with me for a long time, simply because it’s such a powerful yet simple piece of imagery, one that can be interpreted and absorbed in so many ways.
And really, that’s what I took away from the film. Like others have said, it’s a guided meditation through music and moving image. No two viewers are likely to walk away with the same notion of what they saw. It makes for a hard film to review because it really isn’t a film so much as an experience, one well worth taking in.
I’ll be writing more about the recent revival of 70mm and IMAX soon, but for now, check out the interview below that I conducted with Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson about Samsara. Apologies for the occasionally bad audio, still working out the kinks in this new recording system.